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.
To me, family is the most significant part of life. At the same time, I have learned an important lesson about family: it does not have to be people who are related by blood. It can be anyone who sacrifices for and stays loyal to another.
Growing up, I lived in Poughkeepsie, New York, which was about an hour and a half drive from New York City. I was surrounded by my family, who argued constantly with cops showing up at our doorstep to calm things down. My father left us when I was eleven years old, and it was one of the hardest things I had to go through because at that time, my family was filled with anger, and I felt like I had no one to go to and kept my anger inside me as well. Looking back, I realize my father made that choice with good intentions because, with him there, it was a bad environment for us kids. But at the time, it was hard to see him go.
Time went on, and things at home only seemed to get worse. My two brothers went through conflicts with my mother and each other, my whole family was struggling financially, and my parents were constantly working just to support us kids.
Flash forward to freshman year of high school. My parents and my brothers worked in New York City three to five days a week, staying overnight while they did so. My dad and my oldest brother were working as door men, my mom as an accountant, and my middle brother was a waiter at a restaurant on the upper west side of Manhattan. When I was able to see my parents or brothers on the weekends, I usually only heard about more problems. However, no matter how stressed they were in their own lives or with each other, they always made sure I was okay. They contacted me every day, asking me if I needed anything and constantly telling me to work hard and rise above the problems around me. I am deeply blessed to have such a family. Even now, while my parents are still separated, both of them make sure I get good grades in school and encourage me to follow my dreams. I would not be who I am today without the lessons my parents taught me about respect, hard work, and the value of family.
Fortunately, at the time when my parents and brothers were away for work, I was able to temporarily live with some of my best friends and their families. With every family I stayed with, the parents accepted me as one of their own children and provided me with whatever I needed. They bought me clothes, brought me on family vacations, and helped tremendously with coping with the conflicts back home. I am deeply grateful for the help they gave me, and the bonds we created, and I am proud to call them family as well.
One of the families who was a huge part of my life were the Zachs. My best friend Garrett and I met in eighth grade when I had to switch middle schools because my family moved to another area of Poughkeepsie. Since we were both on the soccer team, we created a strong bond, and I told him my problems. Garrett and his parents told me if I ever needed a place to stay, I was more than welcome to stay with them. From ninth to tenth grade, I lived with the Zachs about three days a week while my family worked in the city. They provided me with my own room and helped me out with what I needed. Even though we’re not blood related, Garrett and his family are now my family.
Now, here at Shattuck, my only focus is to achieve my goals of helping my family and providing more for them than they could for me. Shattuck has given me better opportunities to do this, and I’m happy to be a part of this community. I would like to end in a quote from Michael J. Fox, “Family is not an important thing, it’s everything.”