We are here tonight to celebrate. And well, while some of you are used to celebrating a little more than others, this truly is an occasion for it. What a wonderful place and time for our souls to meet together. You: 13 years of waking up and wondering if you will be who you promised yourself to be, the last of those four years possibly here at Moreno Valley High School. While I, a young mother of three finally achieving her goal of finishing college and pursuing a career in teaching just four years ago. I met some of you in your eighth grade summer and watched you grow and become unique and creative individuals ready to jump into our world. I feel incredibly connected with this, with you class of 2011. I yelled at you as freshman. I challenged you as Juniors and watched you find yourselves as Seniors.
Most of you know my story. I have ADD, Dyslexia, Social Anxiety and Depression. Squirrel. I came from dark places. I grew up with government assistance, drug addiction, violence, gang life, homeless shelters, and small parental support. I am the statistic as are you. They said we couldn’t do this. Heck, we said we couldn’t do this. Guess what, I graduated High School in the top 20 of my class. I married at age 18 and had three children. I graduated RCC in 2005 with a Bachelors Degree in Humanities. I graduated from California Baptist University in 2006 with a degree in English and Literature with honors—a 3.78 GPA. Not only that, but I beat out all the younger students, winning the President’s Award for writing– which had not been won the previous 6 years and I became a teacher here at Moreno Valley High School. What now? What now.
I truly believe that we can change this world by changing our hearts and minds. Character is built by the choices we make when we think no one is looking. Henry David Thoreau says that, “What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.” How can I make a speech here without referring to your four years of English?
We may not be comfortable with our past. We may not ever want to look it in the eyes again. We don’t have a clue as to what the future holds, but what lives within us is so intense. We have the power to change everything for the good or the bad. Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, that “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
Today you decide. What is your Character? Will you walk in the darkness or the light?
Every year I stress for my students, you, to know three things: Who are you? What do you believe? ..and Why is it so important to you? If you do not know the answer of those things, search for them. With all of your heart, mind and soul search for the answers. Do not ever blindly follow. Lead. With a firm foundation under you, you can withstand any challenge that comes your way.
In discovering the answer to those things, find your passion and thrive. In doing so, you will find joy. Next, find a way to serve your fellow man. In doing so, you will find peace. Finally, love at all times despite hardship, pain, discomfort and loss and you will find love.
So, whether you continue on to college, university, Europe, missionary work, trade school or some amazing other experiences I haven’t thought of, I ask you one thing: Please do not sit on your mom’s, auntie’s, group home’s or your homie’s couch and watch life pass you by. You have an adventure to take:
So I leave you with advice from two of my favorite writers:
“To love would be an awfully big adventure.”
— J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan)
“To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.”
— Emily Dickinson
Live class of 2011.