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 2017-18 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.
“Everyone here has a story. I believe by sharing our stories we make connections and build community. As your student body president, I ask this of you: Listen to each other’s stories. Here is mine.
“Roughly twenty years ago, my parents had their first child. His name was Josue. My brother lived with my parents in a small town in Mexico. The town was so small it had no doctor and no hospital. At the age of four, Josue got sick and passed away. There was no medical record or explanation for the cause of death. My parents had to face the reality that, if they wanted a safe environment for their family to grow, something had to change. Coming to the United States was their best option. My parents came here for me, which is why I am proud to be standing in front of all of you as the son of two hard-working Mexican immigrants.
“However, there are advantages and disadvantages when it comes to being a minority. Growing up in the U.S., I knew that my family’s lifestyle was different. Obviously, I’ll always be this color. While I now embrace my differences, I remember that as a young child, I hated it. Being different was something I tried so hard to avoid. I hated who I was because I was different from everyone else. I distinctly remember telling my mom that I hated my poop colored eyes and that I wanted blue ones like all of the other kids. I was embarrassed that I received funny looks when I spoke my native language. At first, I didn’t know how to cope with it. What should I have done when that kid from grade school threatened me in a text message that he was going to take my green card away if I continued to talk to a girl who used to be my friend? I now think about it and laugh… I have the same rights that that young man has. I don’t even know what a green card looks like, but I can take a guess. I learned to handle discrimination because I really couldn’t believe anything would happen to me.
“Then, this last November after the election, I was speechless. I didn’t sleep that day. I went for a walk. Millions of things were rushing inside my head. Finally, I called my parents. I found out that my mother had gone to HyVee earlier that week. She was helping a friend who spoke no English. They were speaking Spanish and a complete stranger - a white person - butted in and said, ‘This is America. We speak English here.’ On the phone, my dad told me not to be afraid. He said I needed to work twice as hard as everyone else. I needed to do everything I could in order to be successful in life. More than that, I had to help other people like my parents and me. I had to be a voice for millions of Mexican-American people who were now living in fear.
“Since then, I have learned there are people everywhere who will open their arms and provide support when I need it. Mac and Sophie, you guys watched me grow, supporting me every step of the way and gave me the opportunity to be here. Mr. and Mrs. Moyer, you guys are my other set of parents. You have always been there for me, to listen and be the family I needed when I was away from my own. That is more than I could ever ask for, and I am so lucky to have many more of these people in my life today.
“I am learning not be afraid. I am learning to trust people again. If there is a lesson in my story, it is not to let fear control your life. Surround yourself with good people. Stand up for what you believe in. Remember where you come from and never be ashamed of your roots. But know that there will be people who have a hard time understanding, people who have not heard your story, who don’t even know you have one. So educate them. Tell them your story.
“This year, I hope that we build community by telling our own stories and really listening to the stories told by others. We all need a place where people take the time to listen to each other, learn about each other, and support one another. My goal is to make SSM a place where it is not just okay to be different, but a place that encourages you to be yourself. Tell your story and see how you, with your uniqueness, contribute to our community and make it feel like a place that is home - for all of us.