Senior Speeches: Jakob Popkin ’19

May 08, 2019

After listening to my classmates’ speeches this year, I know there are people in this world who have less than I do and who have faced greater challenges. 

Each year, seniors and postgraduates 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.  

After listening to all of the senior speeches over the past year, I didn’t know what I wanted to write. It seemed like everyone was talking about big challenges in their lives. But I’ve never experienced anything like that. My parents aren’t divorced, I don’t know anyone with a severe medical condition, no one close to me has died or committed suicide, I haven’t been homeless. I lived in beautiful Hawaii, I have supportive parents and sister, and I am here today. I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities I have had. So, instead of my struggles, I’m going to talk about the many blessings in my life.

I have traveled to Japan, Costa Rica, Italy, Switzerland, Colombia, and Portugal, all for soccer and futsal. I have been a part of several different academies to learn and develop as a player after my family moved to California so I could pursue my dream. Both of my parents helped me to get better, be motivated, work hard, and develop into who I am today. They pushed me to strive to be the best I can be. They have sacrificed so much. I remember when we decided to move to California after living in Hawaii for 8 years, they worked extra hard so I could travel to other states and countries. My dad was homeless for a year so that I could have a home. We lived in an impoverished area in San Bernardino, California to save money. They were tired all the time, yet they still were still a part of my life on a daily basis, waking me up in the morning, driving me to school and practice, making sure I had lunch, did my homework, and had enough sleep. It’s endless of what they did to support me and my dream.

They also encouraged and helped me to follow my passion, driving an hour to practice each way and four hours round trip for games. They bought me tickets so I could watch professional games, let me go to practice early, stay late, and took me to the park so I could practice on my own. They made sure I was on a good team so I could learn and develop as a player. My parents are everything to me, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for them. They aren’t selfish, they think about everyone around them, and I am proud to be their son.

I have also had to opportunity to experience different walks of life. From living in San Bernardino, California to Honolulu, Hawaii, and now Faribault, Minnesota, I have learned to be grateful for the roof over my head, the opportunity to play soccer, my friends, coaches, teachers, teammates, and most important of all my family.

After listening to my classmates’ speeches this year, I know there are people in this world who have less than I do and who have faced greater challenges. I have learned not to complain about the things I don’t have or haven’t yet accomplished. Instead I focus my energy to become better whether that is practicing soccer, lifting weights, reading a book, or otherwise because we all can get better no matter what walk of life we came from. We can all be who we want to be if we put in the work instead of complaining why we aren’t.

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