Photo Credit: Emily Wise/Used with permission
On behalf of the class of 2020, I would like to thank all of the faculty and staff of the Academy of the Holy Names for the effort and dedication that they put into allowing this graduation ceremony to safely take place today.
I would also like to thank all of our family and friends who are here today. Your support over the past four years has been invaluable to the class of 2020.
As we meet together today, I am reminded of the last time we all were together as a class at senior retreat. Sitting in an open circle looking at all of the familiar faces that make up our grade, we didn’t know that that was one of the last times we would be together as a full class.
After we had spent the past days completely disconnected from technology and reflecting on our high school experiences, you can imagine the surprise and even shock we felt once we returned to campus and learned not only that had school been canceled, but that many other cancelations and safety regulations had been put in place in order to weaken the spread of the virus.
As we adjusted to our new normal, we were faced with the question of whether or not graduation was going to take place.
We are all overjoyed and extremely blessed to be able to be here today and share safely in the opportunity to graduate, yet, during that time of uncertainty, we became keenly aware that graduation is so much more than a singular day.
For the class of 2020, graduation universally represents how far we’ve come, while still holding unique significance to each graduate of the journey that it took for her to get there.
Looking back on ourselves freshmen year, I wonder if we would understand who we would become. I cannot say with certainty that I would.
Entering high school, I lived by the phrase “lose yourself in the service of others.” Whenever I felt inadequate or self-conscious, I almost immediately shifted the focus off myself and onto others. And yet, while I filled my time by putting others before myself, I could not shake the lingering feeling of never being enough, which unceasingly tossed against the walls of my mind.
In a sense, I felt like fool’s gold attempting to reflect everyone else’s light, while holding no value on my own. So while I exhausted my time volunteering, studying, babysitting, and ultimately trying to help everyone, and even despite the gratitude people showed towards me, it didn’t matter how well I did in school or how many people I helped as I couldn’t recognize a simple, yet essential quality within myself.
During my junior year, based on my interest in another book, my AP Lang teacher Mrs. Jussaume recommended that I read Tara Westover’s Educated, and as I poured through the pages of Westover’s memoir, I stopped over one passage that struck me to the very core.
In a mere 33 words, I found myself presented with an idea of worth in a whole new light. Westover wrote of a professor who compassionately chastened her when he said, “You are not fool’s gold, shining only under a particular light. Whomever you become, whatever you make yourself into, that is who you always were. It was always in you. You are gold.”
And for the first time, through Westover’s insightful words, I caught a glimpse worth in myself, immovable and constant. Whether I recognized it or not, whether others recognize it or not, the worth was there.
From that point on, this new concept of worth rolled over and over in my mind for months. As I grasped to not only understand it, but to embody it, I finally came to the realization that I am not fool’s gold existing simply to reflect the light of others. My true worth, like gold, comes from an immeasurable quality deep inside of me.
And while my experience, is just that, my experience, and I doubt that everyone in here happened to read the same book and was struck by the same passage, I’ve had the privilege of seeing the same growth that I saw in myself in all 118 of my classmates.
As growing to recognize our self worth as not something based on achievement or society or doubt, but something found deep with inside all of us.
So here’s to the the memories and experiences of four years that shaped us into the women we are:
To delirious laughs shared in the hallways before class.
To hours spent learning and relearning the laws that govern the world of Chemistry.
To voices lost in the excitement of Spike and Splash.
To endless flights of stairs.
To calculus problems that were worked and reworked until we could finally say, “Hey, I think I get this.”
To early mornings spent planning and carrying out service projects.
To exhaustion from late nights spent at practice.
To hugs you didn’t ask for, but nevertheless needed.
To crazy dancing in the senior lounge.
To teachers who went out of their way to answer questions – both school and life related.
To quick glances of encouragement before a test.
To the helping hand that was there when you least expected it.
To shared fears about what the future holds.
To failing, but not being afraid to get back up again.
To speaking up for others and for what we believe in.
To confronting the future head-on.
To decisions made consciously and subconsciously.
To experiences forgotten and unforgotten.
Somewhere along there, somewhere between all of the classes and homework and to do lists and busy schedules, we all found a profound worth in ourselves.
Something – untapped, unchangeable – that is always in us.
For through recognizing the worth in ourselves, and in turn recognizing the worth in others, we have found a deeper understanding of the overwhelming positivity that beams when we know true worth. Now I feel bold in the knowledge that we are not merely fool’s gold reflecting other’s light, but complex people filled with invaluable worth.
To the class of 2020 – my encouragers, my role models, and my friends – I am forever thankful to have had the privilege to not only to experience, but to also witness this transformative process in all of you. I believe that the timid freshman we were four years ago would be proud of the confident, compassionate, and courageous young women that stand here today.
I hope you will always remember that you truly are gold. Congratulations class of 2020! I love you all.