Senior Speeches: Light in the Dark

April 14, 2017

“If one moment can define my day, I want to make it a good one.”

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.

Periodically throughout the 2016-2017 school year, we will share excerpts of those speeches with the SSM community, and hope that you enjoy the humor, wisdom, and powerful reflections conveyed by our senior students.

If anyone helped me to find the light in the dark, it was my COE. I can’t even say it was just my own team, because our program is honestly just one big team. I’ve trained with every girl and been yelled at by every coach. These are the people that made me feel like I wasn’t alone at SSM, that even though I’d left my family back home, I had my own family here. They made me realize that even though life might always seem like it revolves around the grind and the pressure and the work, the real joy comes from the little things that make the work worth it.

The little things, like Ana Ginez coming to you on your worst of days with a heartfelt note and handful of candy kisses, telling you that everything is going to be alright. It’s Dana Blessum asking you if you’re okay, fifteen different times, in the same practice when you’re coming back from injury, just to make sure you’re not pushing yourself too hard, or it’s long walks down to Tonka with my dudes. It’s Gabi Clark giving you an hour long makeover at the Rec, or it’s the baby goalkeepers calling you Mom when they see you in the halls. It’s being blessed beyond recognition by your teammates when they give you the absolute privilege of being their captain, and getting to watch each of them grow as intense players and as respected young women. It’s something small everyday, but the little things add up.

If one moment can define my day, I want to make it a good one. I want to thank my parents for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this community, and for their patience with me to find my happiness my own way. I want to thank all of my coaches for supporting and encouraging me since the very first time I came through the Arch, and for never letting me believe that okay is enough.

- Katie Commins

It wasn’t until much later that I began to put together the pieces of why my father acted the way he did. He’d grown up in a typical Chinese farming family in a small village, and because of his extraordinary intelligence, my grandparents saw him as their family’s key to escaping poverty. Told to focus on his studies, he was exempt from menial chores like shopping and working in the field. However, this resulted in isolation from his peers and the rest of society around him. Although he succeeded in getting into a top university, he lacked the skills and common sense needed to thrive outside of the ivory tower. I came to realize that this wasn’t his fault, but rather the result of his upbringing—and it was unfair of me to judge him for things that were outside of his control.

Thinking about my father helped me realize that I can trace the many differences between my behaviors and habits back to variations in the environments in which I was raised. Knowing this helps me see the world through humble eyes, and I do not look down on the less fortunate or capable. And even more importantly, my relationship with my father was greatly improved. I started to spend more time with him and talk to him on a regular basis.

- Andy Zhang

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    Martin Sattler