Friday, June 8, 2018

Dear Class of 2018: Remember Who You Are!

By Missy E.

My how time flies. One moment I’m moving back to New York and the next I’m giving high school commencement speeches. It was truly an honor to be invited to speak on behalf of these young women whom I’ve met over the past year and a half. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank the faculty, administration and staff at St. Joseph H.S. for the opportunity to share my words with you all.

How The Speech Came Alive

The planning and brainstorming portion of the speech was the first step in the process. I wrote down the key points that I wanted to mention.  What was so fascinating was that it seemed like the universe kept sending me inspirational quotes and speeches as the days passed leading to the ceremony. It was fantastic.

The more I prayed about it, the more the Holy Spirit inspired me.

P.S. My mom came from Texas to attend the ceremony! She was able to document about two minutes of the total 10 minute speech. Thank you mom!

I would also like to send my deepest gratitude to Anchor Liz Faublas at Currents News for her advice. She is a wonderful public speaker. Her advice helped me with the finishing touches of my commencement speech. Fun fact: Liz Faublas was actually the 2017 commencement speaker at the same school, so talk about ladies who lead with a purpose!

Here's a snippet of my speech:

Also - to read the speech in its entirety, be sure to click “Read More” after the jump! Feel free to pass on these words for those special graduates in your life. 

My Commencement Speech to the Class of 2018 
St. Joseph H.S., Brooklyn, New York

Good Morning CLASS OF 2018!!

And good morning to those here in support of the St. Joseph students - the family, the friends, the mentors. You all are a significant reason behind why the beautiful faces will be able to walk across the stage today.

Graduating senior Hannah will attend Pace University in the fall.
I’d like to also take this moment to thank the faculty, staff and administration for not only this opportunity to speak at commencement but to thank you for your devotion towards educating these young women because as your school motto states  - as was the vision by the Religious Sisters of St. Joseph who founded this school more than 100 years ago: when you educate a woman, you educate a nation.

The moment has arrived - this is the graduating class of 2018. Congratulations to each and every single one of you — here’s where I brag about you ladies for a little bit.  It took each and every single one of you to make the decision to step up and show up ... Step up and say 
“I may have a lot going on in my life right now” but I’m showing up to class, showing up to my dance practice, or softball practice, after school tutoring, volunteer service or showing up to my part-time job...” in order to better your future and your family’s future.

See, I realized that my role today is not to tell you anything about yourself that you don’t already know. No - I realized that I am meant to be here to remind you about who you are, who you represent and who you belong to. I’m not talking about the person you feed to social media with the captions and hashtags, but much more than that. 

From my perspective - which is the outside looking in as a reporter covering high schools around the diocese. What I discovered throughout the years was this:

These young women are truly women of spirit.. who don’t settle for the status quo. They are vibrant young ladies who believe in a better future for society. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to write that story about the step team’s beautiful performance honoring the vision and values of Martin Luther King Jr. on that stage in Manhattan! Boy I tell you these ladies brought the house down! They were in sync not only with their movements but with their hearts. They incorporated faith and Scripture and when I say they brought us to church - they brought us to church.

I met many of you ladies also because of Women’s Professional Day: where career women spend a day with the students listening to them and answering any question they had about our careers. I also met some of you through your school newspaper, The Parmentier. You all are Women of spirit who aren’t afraid to push the envelope and write about topics like Colin Kapernick kneeling during NFL games and what that symbolized for people of color. I’m telling you these ladies are cooler than I’ll ever be.

These young women represent a vision that came to fruition: a vision that came to life because what I learned is that this school was founded at a time when women weren’t getting an equal shot at life, the opportunities for receiving an education as a woman was not a God-given right, as it is today in America. St. Joseph High School was one of the schools that said, nope not on my watch, women deserve a chance. That sass tied with unwavering faith and not settling - I saw that at every event. 
St. Joseph H.S. Principal Caroline Latham and I after the ceremony.

This year was a tough year for high school students in terms of school safety. Over the years, the Columbines had trickled down into the Sandy Hooks into the Parklands. And yet - here was St. Joseph High School - Marching into Manhattan with thousands of others calling for gun control..  That same time, the students here advocated to do a school-wide prayer in solidarity with the victims. Not too long after that, I saw these young women march again in the streets of Downtown Brooklyn, once again advocating for school safety with their banners and voices held high - they took to the streets and made sure New York City knew nope, not on my watch. No more lives.  

These young women know they belong to a community who believes in them. Whether it’s the school, or the sports teams, or the faith communities and the families, remember the day you were born — you belonged to the King of Kings, Sovereign over Every Principality and Power on this earth! So ladies do not forget to wear your crowns with confidence the same way you’re wearing your graduation caps as a symbol of your hard work - you wear your crowns in this world as a symbol of your royalty with Christ the King.

In a world ready to tear you down, feed you with ideas and images of who you need to be and show you how to wear your crown - you remind them who you are, who you represent and who you belong to and you take your crown and fix it to way only you can fix it because face it there is only one you. And face it- the planet needs you on your path and on your purpose - which will come with time. Have patience with yourself. 

St. Joseph High School helped form you into more than just successful young women - but women with compassion and a special Je Ne Sais Quoi——- because while the planet will have many successful young women who will also be going to colleges across the country —— except you are MORE than the regular package because you are queens who are PEACEMAKERS, HEALERS, RESTORERS, STORYTELLERS.  The same spirit that this school was founded upon exists in each and every single one of you. Don’t you forget that. 

With all the division occurring on the planet - what will define your legacy won’t always be about your accolades, your degrees, your status, your amount of likes or retweets, trust me, like beauty, like all the news and the hype - that all fades.

Your legacy will be - at the end of it all - how much did I love? 

Rather than selfishness, how much was I selfless?

Rather than always being served, how much did I serve?

Rather than always speaking, how much did I listen?

Listen, every day you’re writing a new page in the book called life. Therefore each day is a new opportunity to share that love through the things you do and the words you say. Even in the smallest of things and actions. Those count the most. If others “READ” what you “WRITE” in your book with your name on it. I pray they find what is faithFULL and true

I’d like to end this by saying if there’s one thing to take from me being here is this: I know what it’s like to doubt one’s path, one’s journey and even one’s worth. No one is perfect. This speech I’m giving is far from perfect. But in full circle, through divine intervention and God’s graces, things work themselves out. Count those blessings everyday. 

I recently interviewed a St .Joseph High School alumna ten plus years after high school. She wrote a self-help and intensely reflective book. She shared many vulnerable moments through college, her career and single motherhood. While some things did not go as “planned” I realized she never lost that St. Joseph spirit. She embraced her redemption. She remembered who she was, who she represented and who she belonged to. 

Dear class of 2018 - look to your left and to your right and remember the faces who were part of the chapter in your life called high school. Now look forward, chin up, and recognize the future is yours. What will you write today?
To my mom, my rock and my biggest supporter: I love you!

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