‘Stubborn resilience’: Ghidotti High School 2021 Valedictorian Address
Special to The Union
Editor’s note: The following is the 2021 Valedictorian Address for Ghidotti High School, given by graduate Amina Federspiel-Otelea.
Good evening family and friends, teachers and staff, and my extraordinary fellow students. I am humbled to be with you today and to address you all on this powerful occasion. As a young child, I assumed this moment would be a calm conclusion. The end in sight to an intense and often exhausting journey that we all navigated from childhood to the present. I dreamt of a joyous celebration in which we delighted in our deliverance out of a world of constant self-questioning and standardized testing. Standardized in the sense that pushing through unimaginable academic and personal challenges became the model of normalcy, which we all quietly adjusted to. But this past year, along with the many hardships we have continuously confronted and surmounted, have both truthfully dispelled my desire to impart any fanciful comfort in familiarity or fleeting moments of ease.
We cannot gain clarity to see our place in this world if we are fearful of experiencing that which we do not desire. We need honesty that what we are doing might truly terrify us, or it might fill us with an incredible amount of joy. And that either way, we have a stubborn amount of resilience and a light that will always be there to guide us, even if that is the only thing we ever really have. Where there is any doubt or denial, let us be certain of the uncertainty and challenges that will always await us. Let us find our footing instead in profound perseverance. I speak not of a temporary accomplishment within the frame of high school, but of an invaluable mindset we all fought so hard to embody during these four years.
Looking at all of you, I am assured. Not by the academic accolades we earned, nor the leadership positions we held, not even by whom we seem to be on the outside. I am emboldened to think of our beautiful future because I trust in our courage to choose the path of piloting our own lives. Because I have seen each of us take that impossible next step with grace and with dignity, even when it felt there was nothing else we could do. And because I hope we will always remember to ask ourselves if this is who we truly want to be and to sustain respect for ourselves and others as we all search for the direction that fills us with purpose and happiness.
I am in awe of the dedication of the students, parents, teachers, and everyone else who contributed along this journey, and I am so, so proud to graduate alongside a community I have come to admire fiercely for the fervor with which we strive to realize our goals, to seek joy and laughter, even in the face of hardship, and to love and support one another. I am forever grateful for the guidance of our beloved teachers who knew when to expect excellence and when to acknowledge our need for rest and our desire for “just one more story before we start class.” We have benefited from an office manager, two incredible counselors, and a principal who all believe in the worth of our voice and the importance of our dreams. And outside of school, many of us would not be here, in the same way, without the strength of our family and friends behind us.
I am only the third generation in my family to reach high school. A fourth of Ghidotti’s class of 2021 will be the first in their family to attend college. Regardless of where we, students, find ourselves, the education we received and can continue to pursue is an immense privilege. It is an immense privilege to use our time on this earth to learn as much as we can. It is the work, and sacrifice, and deep care of those before us, those who remained by our side no matter what, and those who inspired us to achieve everything and much more than we hoped we could that brings us all here today. And so, I ask that you please take a moment to reflect upon why this occasion is important for you and your journey moving forward.
I hope that we always remember: we are students and humans who can create the world we want to live in, moving forward with trust in our courage and our ability to never stop blooming and never stop seeking beauty, even if that means that we bloom through the cracks and that we create beauty when we do not see enough of it around us. For these reasons and many more, I am honored to say we have forged our place as the Ghidotti class of 2021. Congratulations, to us all! Thank you.
Amina Federspiel-Otelea graduated with the Class of 2021 from Ghidotti High School
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