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.
“When I was younger, I was not very interested in learning English. After all, I am a musician, and music is a universal language, right? At my high school in Colombia, I didn’t work very hard or pay much attention in my English classes. Since then, however, I had some experiences that changed my point of view and made me realize how important it was for me and for my career to learn this language.
“It all started when I came for the first time to the U.S. for a summer music camp in 2015. At this point, I only knew basic English, such as hello, how are you, and goodbye. It was really difficult for me to understand and interact with other people. I seemed quiet and shy, which I am not, and I struggled to find the words to speak and interact with the other musicians. For example, during a rehearsal I was not able to communicate vital information with my colleagues about the rehearsal process and my interpretation of the music. The only way I could communicate my ideas was basically through visual demonstrations with my cello or doing gestures with my body.
“By the end of the camp, I was able to interact a little bit more. But I was frustrated by not being able to show my real personality, not getting to know the other musicians better, and thus no making the most of this opportunity. I returned to my country with a new perspective about English, and of how important and necessary it was for me to learn it.
“After finishing high school in Colombia in 2015, I enrolled in a Language Institute near my house. I had classes Monday through Saturday. But, I knew that if my goal was to learn as quickly as possible, I had to work hard and spend some of my free time practicing and reinforcing the things I had learned. I started to look for different ways to use English. At this point, Adele’s new album had just come out with her song ‘Hello.’ I had always been a big fan of her music, but I had never been able to sing her lyrics. So, I decided to learn each of the songs in this album by heart, and I did. This not only helped me learn new, cheesy vocabulary, but also encouraged me to understand and learn new songs that before were just a nice melody in my ears.
“In addition, when I watched TV, I would also change the language settings of all the channels to English. Some of my favorite shows were The Ellen Show, The Big Bang Theory and Marvel’s Agents of Shield. This worked great for me, but my parents and my younger sister were annoyed since they could not understand anything.
“After eight months, I finished my English course and had the opportunity to come to Shattuck. With the support of my parents and family, I accepted this new challenge. Although my English was better than before, my vocabulary was not that advanced. Then, I knew I had to take my English to another level. As always, the beginning was difficult. I had a fair amount of trouble with the new vocabulary words and their pronunciations. For example, in my precalculus class last year, instead of saying “we need to factor the equation”, I said “we need to fact the equation.” Even now, I still make some mistakes. Like at the beginning of this school year, when I said “I changed my identity” when I meant to say “I changed my ID.”
“Mistakes are a part of life. I am not afraid of making mistakes because I know that I will learn from them and with the help of others overcome my obstacles. Finally, I want to encourage you to fight for your goals because as my mom says, “Todo lo que soñamos ardientemente, deseamos, creemos y emprendemos con disciplina, amor, firmeza y entusiasmo, inevitablemente sucedera” or in English, “all the things that we fervently dream, wish, believe, and undertake with discipline, love, firmness, and enthusiasm, will inevitably come to pass.”