Each year, seniors at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School deliver a speech to their peers on a topic of their choosing in the Newhall Auditorium. Often equal parts clever and moving, emotional and personal, each speech offers a glimpse into the lives, experiences, struggles, and triumphs of SSM seniors.
Throughout the 2018-19 school year, we will share these speeches with the SSM community and hope that you enjoy the humor, wisdom, and powerful reflections conveyed by our senior students.
When I was seven years old, I decided I was going to become a ballerina. There was not a day that went by that I wasn’t making up dances in the living room for my neighbors to see or watching videos of the American Ballet Theatre on repeat. For years, I dedicated all my time to dance and in the sixth grade I was accepted into the pre-professional company at the Rock School of Ballet in Philadelphia. Everything I had dreamed of became a reality.
After a few years, however, I slowly saw that dream slipping out of my hands. I was fourteen years old when my whole life changed. Instead of enjoying “normal” things- school, friends, ballet, I was in the hospital. The doctors didn’t know what was wrong with me. I had extreme pains in my stomach which prevented me from dancing or doing anything outside of sitting in the hospital bed. I spent my eighth, ninth, and part of my tenth-grade year in and out of the Mayo Clinic. The doctors told me I couldn’t dance anymore, and I was devastated. My life was at an all-time low. I was bitter. I questioned why God would do this to me and even saw my faith, the most solid thing in my life, become translucent.
When I started tenth grade, I decided I wasn’t going to let this illness take over, or let doctors tell me I would never feel better. I took things into my own hands. I changed my attitude, changed my lifestyle, and restored my faith in God. But, it wasn’t until this past summer that I found a more significant meaning to what I went through.
This summer I had the opportunity to do mission outreach in El Salvador. While I was there, I met a girl named Maria. Maria was 12 and the oldest of seven kids. Her mom had passed away three years ago and her dad was sentenced to a lifetime in prison. Maria was both the mother and father figure for her siblings, and she received only $4 a week from her uncle to support the entire family. She knew very little English, but I was able to speak to her with a translator for a whole day.
I asked Maria if she wanted to play soccer with the other kids. She replied that soccer was her favorite thing to do, but “it hurt to much to play.” I asked her what hurt and she pointed to her stomach. She then told me that she had ulcers in her stomach lining, and neither she nor her uncle had enough money to pay for the doctor. In that moment, my heart immediately broke. I thought to myself, how selfish am I to be bitter about what I went through, when there are people like Maria taking care of their families with no medical help or resources.
That day I was able to share both my story and my faith with Maria. I left her with the verse from 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal.”
Each and every one of us goes through difficult points in our lives. We cannot let what we go through define who we are, but instead let it shape us into who we are becoming. I believe our greatest challenges can turn into our greatest opportunities to serve others. Maya Angelou said, “We may encounter many defeats, but we may not be defeated.”