With deep emotions and the excitement of new things to come, we celebrated the graduation of our 6th, 9th and 12th graders. Here are many photos followed by our Valedictorian’s commencement address.
When I was thirteen my mother picked me up from school one day and said, “Would you like to go to the American School?” Back then I was in my first year at another school, and I was happier than I had ever been. “Isn’t that the rich kids school?” I thought. “No, thank you.” I took the entry exam just to please my caretakers. Long story short, I got accepted, and then I got offered a scholarship, and just like that, I am suddenly in ASPV. I will be honest with you, I was not happy. The new life I’d been building was suddenly gone. El Americano. “¿Que no son súper fresas? Why are you leaving so soon? Pero si ahí son bien mala onda…” My friends would voice their concerns to me and I’d be like, “Yeah. I know.”
Fast forward a few months, to the summer before 8th grade, and there I am sitting at Starbucks with Almudena Vallarta, my student ambassador, and her friends Abril and Emilia. I have to say, that ASPV 101 was very thorough. Almu showed me her yearbook and gave me all the inside information. “Anita y Coty son súper buena onda. Sé buena con ellas porque te ayudan un buen.” She was right. “You probably won’t get good grades here. The teachers don’t actually assign work if they think full marks are possible.” She was right about that too. I left that Starbucks feeling completely terrified. The girls did a very good job explaining ASPV, but nothing they could’ve said would have prepared me for what came next. And that’s without them even mentioning the real dangers of ASPV– the fact that sometimes fans fall off the ceiling (Edwin), that the vicious beetles bite (Elena), that Daniel alias el mala vibra will unleash his fury on you at any moment. None of us could’ve foreseen that being someone’s friend would suddenly make you a cromo, that I would get all the teasing of having a boyfriend without actually having one, that we would never be allowed to go to the bathroom because Kalvin would already be there.
I’ll be honest, when I was new here I wanted to hide every day for a while. You, classmates who have been at this school since 2002, you know how special this place is. And yet you have no idea how different it is from the other schools. Not in any school will students go up to the authority and ask for a change. Not in any school do you meet people with such varied interests and backgrounds.
You see, ASPV is not what it seems like on the outside. You come here, and you speak English so much of the time that you just start speaking it at random, with your family, with your friends. You are surrounded by amazing people– people who read, people who write, people who sing. People who are nice– some, so nice you can’t even believe it. The teachers move fast, the homework keeps coming and coming. You are greeted at the gate every time you come in and every time you come out. Kids make their own yearbook, and they put on a play, and they go on soccer tournaments around the country and– get this– they do community service???… To me, it was a whole new world of things I never even knew existed. And I was overwhelmed.
It took me a while to realize it, but… this is a place to be Cherished.
Just recently I went to pick up my sister after school, in my own car, being done with highschool– and it hit me. For years I have listened to you veterans talk about bringing your children here in the future, to live in PV and study at this school… but I never truly understood it. It wasn’t until I was looking at it from the outside, everybody moving around, leaving with their friends and family, happily going about their business– it wasn’t until then that I truly realized… it is home. It’s my home, and of course I’d love to come back. When senior year started none of us could wait to get out. And now… I wish I could keep enjoying the comforting, familiar faces, the exciting projects, the quality classes. But most of all, I will miss you, my classmates. I have said it before and I will say it again, you guys were one of the best surprises life ever gave me. This is a class that will pitch in for surprise cake on your birthday, whether you are a classmate or a teacher. This is the class that will go all the way with everything, because you either go big or go home. All that money we spent on flowers, matching t-shirts, bathing suits and hoodies, graduation invitations, the Haunted House– that was money (and time) well spent.
Senior year was quite something; full of joy, but also full of pain. I got to see sides of people I had never seen before. Many of us were heartbroken, lonely, lost. Today I want to celebrate all the blessings and accomplishments in our lives, because they are plenty. But I also think it is important to acknowledge that– it was rough. For you, middle school graduates, I want you to know that you will struggle. But you can do it, we all did. For the family of my fellow seniors, I want you to know that although the problems of young people may seem minor to you, these problems have changed us forever. Often times you won’t know about everything that is going on in your teenager’s life, but that’s okay, as long as you are there for them. And for you, my classmates, I want you to remember the hardship you faced during this year. You will probably find yourself feeling broken again in the future. And you will probably want to give up and all that. But in those moments I want you to remember that you have done it all before. I want you to remember the great times we spent together, and that we love you.
A veces no nos damos cuenta del impacto que tienen ciertas personas en nuestras vidas. Creemos que somos lo que somos exclusivamente por voluntad propia. Pero no es así. Nuestros maestros, nuestros padres, nuestros compañeros, cada uno de ellos ha contribuido un poco de sí en nuestra construcción. Hoy quiero agradecerles a todos ustedes por haberme ayudado e inspirado, muchas veces sin darse cuenta, y sin esperar nada a cambio. Nuestros padres y maestros nos han enseñado a lo largo de los años a siempre buscar lo mejor, a luchar por lo que queremos. Yo los veo a todos ustedes, mis compañeros, mis amigos, y veo un grupo de personas que no dejan que nadie les diga qué creer, que viven la vida con ganas, que son leales a sus seres queridos. Se nos ha estado preparando toda la vida para este momento. Y por eso sé que todos ustedes tienen el potencial de salir y triunfar.
Sin embargo, hay algo más con lo que nosotros contamos: una enorme suerte. Tenemos suerte de ser parte de una pequeña fracción de la población mundial que puede ir al doctor cuando se enferma, que vive en paz, que come a diario. Yo en lo personal creo que es muy importante agradecer lo que se tiene. Agradezcanle a quienes los apoyan, agradezcanse a sí mismos, agradezcanle a la vida, y a su dios si tienen uno. Pero además de decir gracias, uno puede agradecer con acciones, aunque sea en su vida diaria. Demuestren que son dignos de tener todo lo que tienen, ayudando a los demás. En esta escuela aprendí a ver el servicio comunitario como algo normal. Les puedo garantizar que si lo adoptan en su vida, no les va a hacer falta tiempo, ni se van a aburrir. No les voy a decir cómo vivir su vida, pero sepan que podrían estar perdiéndose de mucho: experiencias únicas, gente increíble, una versión más fuerte de ustedes mismos. Creo que uno de los momentos más fuertes que vivimos como salón fue aquella plática que nos dio Miss Karela recientemente, sobre la situación actual en Venezuela. Recuerden cómo sintieron el dolor ajeno como si fuera suyo, recuerden cómo hacían preguntas tratando de descifrar cómo algo así puede estar pasando, cómo podríamos terminarlo. Los seres humanos estamos conectados. Deberíamos recibir las mismas oportunidades, y sin embargo, no es así. Todos aquí tenemos más que la mayoría del mundo. Aprovechen. Disfruten, pero también trabajen, por su propio bien y por el bien de su propio mundo.
A partir de mañana nos empezamos a ir en diferentes direcciones. Muchos nos vamos a dejar de ver. Pero no estén tristes, porque tantos años no se borran fácilmente. No dejen de ser las personas determinadas y cariñosas que son. No se olviden de lo que vivimos aquí. Por mi parte les deseo la mejor de la suerte, y les recuerdo que siempre estarán cerca de mi corazón.