Learning is a journey, or so they say. However, to many high school students, it often feels like a maze, a jungle, a trap. Along with the happy memories are the struggles for success, excellence, and most importantly, acceptance and belonging.
Be inspired by the unique experiences of our 2017 Class Valedictorian as she shares her story of fear and courage as she manages to graduate with the highest honors. Audrey will be going to the UC Berkeley this fall. She also got admitted into UC Irvine, UC Davis, and Cal Poly, SLO. Our warmest congratulations to you and all of Batch 2017!
Delivered during the 2017 Commencement Exercises
To my fellow graduates, good afternoon.
One of the greatest philosophers of our time, Lady Gaga, once said: “I’m on the edge of glory, and I’m hanging on a moment of truth. Out on the edge of glory, and I’m hanging on a moment with you.”
No words could be more fitting for where we stand right now.
My fellow graduates, this very moment, we stand on the edge of a threshold, our toes on the starting line. What lies beyond it is the entire world and all the glory we could possibly achieve. We could go on to be anything: the next Bill Gates, the next Mark Zuckerberg, the next Beyonce, Kim K, or Kanye. This graduation ceremony today serves as a testament to how we’ve outgrown our humble classrooms. Like a butterfly’s escape from its chrysalis, we’ve transformed, and have reached the moment when we must break free and face the world. The moment we cross this line, the moment we throw our caps, we will be perceived as new people. No longer children, but fully-fledged young adults ready to tackle life and beat it with a stick.
Well, my friends, I have a confession for you. I’m not ready. More than that, I’m scared out of my mind. Have you guys ever ridden the Viking? The ride where you’re on a boat and it goes back and forth kind of like a swing except it’s evil? When you’re at the highest point of the motion,
when you’re almost upside-down and centripetal force stops you from falling out of your seat but it doesn’t stop you from crying, that’s how I feel right now. And I think maybe you feel something a little less extreme than the terror of the Viking, but kind of similar.
In fairness, we have a lot to be terrified of.
Today we are being released from our alma mater’s warm embrace—good riddance—and are thrown out into the cold and open. The world is so big, and it’s scary when we begin to feel so little and so unsure of what may come for us. Sure, we could be anything, but we could also be nothing.
Beyond this threshold lies the rest of our lives. And in it, we will have moments when we are afraid to face ourselves,
when we won’t like who we are or who we’ve become. We will reach times when life comes at us all at once, and we will be unprepared. When we will have too much on our plate, but will be too empty to care. We will come to points when we feel like the world is ending. Be it by the tragedies we see in the news every day, or by the crushing struggles we face in our day-to-day lives. We will have a hard time, and we will have a lot to be afraid of. That, at the very least, is sure.
But let me tell you, this fear won’t do us any good in the long run. This is coming from a person who’s too anxious to ask strangers for directions to the bathroom much of the time. Trust me when I tell you that anxiety does not help you live. All it will do is leave you motionless and too afraid to cross the starting line. And the only way we can face that fear, and the only way to cross that starting line, is with courage.
At this point, our paths diverge. And as we move forward, I urge you to be brave and grow. Because no matter what we do, it takes courage. Whether we will be continuing with our studies in environments familiar or completely foreign to us, or entering the workforce and learning to contribute to society, or taking some time to just find ourselves because that is what matters most right now.
What lies ahead of each of us, beyond the threshold at which we now stand, is a mystery. And although it is daunting, be brave.
In one my favorite movies, Princess Mononoke, there’s a prince that needs to venture into this mysterious forest of mystical creatures in order to cure a curse that’s been cast upon him. Before he embarks on his journey, he talks to the wise old woman in his village about his future. She tells him, “You cannot change fate. However, you can rise to meet it, if you so choose.”
At one point, I was like that prince, needing to venture into the unknown in order to fix myself. Before coming to MITIS, I’d moved from Saipan to the Philippines and spent an entire year studying in an awful school whose name I won’t mention. My grades plummeted. I was lonely. I’d lost confidence in myself, and, frankly, was too disillusioned to care about my life. I felt like a failure. Part of me didn’t want to find a cure; I wanted to give up. When my siblings and I transferred to MITIS, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to recover. I was afraid that the same thing would repeat itself, and I’d continue to fail and continue to disappoint myself.
But really, I wanted to get better, so I rose to meet my challenge. At first I was afraid, I was petrified. But I came to school every day, with clammy palms and heart beating out of my chest, and I tried. There were times that I failed, but I learned to get over them. There were times that I felt alone, but I learned to make friends. And there were times I wanted to give up, but I learned from a great man to never give up. To never ever ever ever ever ever ever give up. And my fear didn’t go away, but I learned to to face my fear. And somehow, it became easier for me to rise and meet whatever the future had in store.
My fellow graduates, let’s be brave. Let’s rise to meet the fate that lies ahead of us. Cross the starting line. Face the rest of your life with courage and the tenacity to never give up. Let’s continue to learn and grow into better, stronger people. And no matter where life takes us, be smart, be good, and make MIT International School proud.
I would also like to acknowledge the lovely people who’ve come to see us off on this occasion.
To all our family, friends, teachers, and members of the MITIS community, thank you for coming all the way here, and good afternoon.
There is so much gratitude and so much to thank you for, that I’ve had to write an entirely separate speech.
First and foremost, I thank Jehovah God for his constant guidance and protection.
To my parents: Thanks for everything. Without you, I wouldn’t be standing here today, for multiple reasons.
Dad, thank you for constantly supporting me in everything I do. When no one believes in me, you do. You work hard everyday for me and my siblings to provide for us and give us all the opportunities you can. And even though you tell me to exercise but I never do, you still love anyways. Thanks, Dad.
Mom, thank you for all your love and kindness. I know that we don’t get along sometimes, but you’re always there for me when I need you. You always put me and my siblings first, and push us to grow and be the best that we can be. Without you, I wouldn’t have tried as hard as I have, and wouldn’t be qualified to be standing here and to give this speech right now. Thanks, Mom.
Moving on to my siblings…to my older brother who stood here a couple years ago, thank you for setting a precedent in our family, forcing me to claw my way up to this podium. Most of my achievements are just me trying to one-up you, so thanks for that. To Star and Andrei, thanks for making my days less boring, and for knocking me down a few pegs when I get too full of myself.
To my classmates: You guys are also like my older siblings, in the sense that we don’t always talk, but we spend a lot of time together. We also get scolded together. I also wish that you guys could clean up after yourselves. But most importantly, I’m glad to have had you in my life, even for a short while. Thanks for putting up with me, and I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.
To all our teachers: You’ve been very patient with us for the past years. Very patient. So so so so so so patient. You’ve stuck with us through thick and thin. And when you yelled at us, we know that it was because you cared. So we forgive you, and hope that you can forgive us too. We’ve already forgotten many of your lessons, but some things, we will never forget. Like your kindness, your encouragement, and your firm belief in us. Thank you, and I hope that we can make you proud.
And to all members of the MITIS community, you’ve made these past four years the best in my life. No words can express how deeply I cherish the experiences I’ve had in MITIS until now. I think I can speak for all the graduates standing before you today when I say that I am a proud product of MIT International School. Thank you MITIS, for raising us up to who we are today.