“Oh the places you’ll go”
From proms to graduations, the pomp and circumstance for the Class of 2020 was put on hold due to the pandemic. On Wednesday, Excel High School’s senior class put on their caps and gowns and received their diplomas in the parking lot – while practicing social distancing!
Class valedictorian is Elda Sapon Ramirez and salutatorian is Southie resident Awliyo Hussien. You can see their speeches below!
Congratulations to the entire class of 2020!
Here’s a special shoutout to the Southie graduates:
Patrick Craddock (no photo)
Matthew McDonald (no photo)
Here is class valedictorian Elda Sapon Ramirez speech:
My name is Elda Sapon Ramirez. I’m a proud graduate of Excel High School. I am also a proud artist, immigrant, friend, daughter, and future college student, but I need to be honest with you, I never imagined that I would be your valedictorian. I always saw myself as a normal student just doing their best. I have been late to school. I have received poor grades. What kept me motivated throughout high school was having the opportunity to be the first person in my family to go to college.
I immigrated from Guatemala, a very small conservative country, when I was 14. Knowing I would be attending high school once I got here, I was terrified that I wouldn’t fit in, but continued to be motivated by the idea that I may be able to go to college. When you get to Boston you are surrounded by colleges and college students. I dreamt that I would one day be one of them, but I was nervous that high school would be miserable because I wouldn’t make any friends. How would I be able to relate to anyone? I was shocked when I came to Excel for freshman orientation and I made friends instantly. As an immigrant trying to adjust to a new country I was sure that I would feel like an outsider, but that was not my experience.
I’m telling you about my journey at Excel because I know so many of you can relate. At Excel, one of the most diverse schools in BPS, I met many people during freshman orientation who are still my best friends to this day. Regardless of our cultural differences, we were able to connect and learn from each other, which only served to make our friendships more authentic. I was also lucky to have kind and supportive teachers who guided me on my journey to higher education. As I progressed through high school I saw myself changing, from the very insecure and scared girl, to the confident almost college student you see here today. Even if your story isn’t exactly like mine, I know that you can relate to trying to fit in with people who aren’t exactly like you, who haven’t had your life experiences.
Today, I am just like each of you. We are all students leaving high school during an unprecedented time, a time that might change the whole world. But just like what we are experiencing may change the world, so can we. I believe that we have the power to change the world, but in a positive way. It is hard to have hope, especially now, but it is also the best time to reflect and plan for a better future. Your decision for your future is yours to make. Whether or not you choose to go to college you are still a meaningful part of this generation, you are still part of our future.
Congratulations to class of 2020 from Excel high School and everyone else graduating this year from around the country. Through success and challenges, we have come to close one chapter and open another and I couldn’t be more proud of us.
Here is class salutatorian Awliyo Hussien speech:
Hello, my name is Awliyo Hussien. In the fall I will be attending Northeastern University, with the goal of eventually starting my career in the medical field.
I was born in Kenya and moved to America when I was 1 years old. I grew up in Chelsea most of my life and moved to South Boston in 2014. I started my freshman year at Excel in 2016. In school, I worked as hard as I could to get good grades with the help of my parents and teachers. My parents have always pushed me to take my education seriously and to learn as much as I could. They wanted my life to be easier than theirs was. From a young age, I imagined myself going to college because I felt that this was the path for me to a better future, little did I know how senior year was going to look.
None of us imagined our senior year to end in the middle of a global pandemic. On top of that, we are currently a part of one the biggest civil rights movements in history. Black lives matter is a call for all of us to end racism and oppression in our society. This is an issue that affects us all.
Our school is very diverse with many students and staff f4rom all walks of life. Our diversity is a common thread that weaves us together. Our diversity also means that we have all felt some type of discrimination before.
As black muslim woman, I have experienced many instances of discrimination. I remember as a little kid my cousins and I would go to the corner store as a group, but everytime we did we would get stares from the owners of the store. We felt like we were always being watched because of the color of our skin. Other kids in the neighborhood said they never felt that way at the stores. We knew that in some way we were looked at differently. I’d like to say that doesn’t happen anymore, but unfortunately it does.
I also remember how singled out I felt my first time going on a plane since coming to the U.S. I was mortified when I was singled out in front of everyone for a “random search.” It was a bizarre feeling because I had always heard about the discrimnation Muslims face in airports, but the experience was way worse than I imagined. The looks that I got from others around me, the endless questions I was asked about what I was wearing and all things related to it; I felt scared, nervous, and embarrassed. I just wanted it to be over. I was grateful to those who were going on the trip with me for making it easier to deal with and eventually laugh off.
These may be my personal stories, but I know many of you can relate. The discrimination we have experienced makes it harder for our class because not only do we have to make sure to do well in school and have plans for the future, but we also have to deal with challenges of being discriminated against in our world.
As frustrating as it feels, we must keep going.
Start by keeping yourself educated about your community, government, country, and the world. We might be done with school, but we are never done learning.
Have a plan; even if things don’t seem so clear cut, have a plan to fall back to if need be.
Remember as youth we hold power. Our voices matter. If we work together we can accomplish so much more than we ever dreamed.
Congratulations class of 2020 we all walk our own paths to success; whether you’re entering the workforce, going to college, or learning a trade, whatever path you may be taking to reach your dreams, I wish you the best.
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