A much anticipated and highlight of each school year at the Hillsides Education Center is the graduation. This year, 11 seniors graduated–the largest class in the history of the school. The graduation ceremony is an opportunity for the members of the class to reflect on their education experience and express their hopes and dreams for their future. As a result, their comments are filled with expressions of gratitude and aspirations for happiness and success.
This year the class joined together at the very end of the ceremony to collectively present a “statement” that very succinctly expressed who they are and what they hope for. I found it very moving and poignant because it came from students who have experienced great challenges but have also demonstrated extraordinary resilience. I was proud of them and their confidence and resolve to leverage what they have learned to secure a better life.
What follows is the text of the “statement.” I share it with you because I think it is the most eloquent expression of what it truly means to create lasting change.
Some people don’t listen
Some people cry
Most of the time I know not what I do
If I were the rain
I could merge with somebody’s heart
Like the rain merges with the sky and earth
Never meant to connect…
I used to think that my life would be perfect and that no one I loved would ever die. But they did.
I used to think break ups were not that painful.
But they are.
I used to think I would stay skinny forever, that people would never be mean to me, and that money was free.
But as we all know, none of that is true.
I used to think pancakes weren’t all that addicting…but they are.
I used to think I would not live at Hillsides that long.
But it’s been 5 years, and I am still here.
Now I know that life isn’t perfect. People die for a reason. Boys are boys. Pancakes are my favorite food. Nothing is as I expected. And now I know how to be mature. I know how to believe in God. I know how to love God. I even know how to love myself, just a little bit.\
I used to think that candy was just a dream. Now I know I am going to be on top of
I used to think about how to be happy and to be myself.
I used to think I would travel around the world
I used to think I would get my own job, my own money, go to college and be successful in life
That it would all be easy
Now I know I have to work hard to complete my goals
To be successful
To do my own thing
To be happy
I used to think life wasn’t worth it, that education wasn’t everything, that love wasn’t real.
I used to think everything was easy just like in the movies.
I used to think nobody cared.
I used to think life was boring and not full of anything good. I used to think happiness wasn’t real.
Now I know that life has a purpose, that education is worth it, that love is beautiful. I know that everything isn’t easy but in the end, it’s all worth it. Now I know that people truly care about me. That life is entertaining and full of amazing, joyful things. That happiness isn’t just a word but the best feeling in the world.
I have a dream that one day I will find happiness and love
That I will have a family of my own
I have a dream that one day I will be the next Colin Kaepernick and be happy
I have a dream that one day my Mom, Denise, will tell me
I love you
I have a dream, to be an inspiration to others. To influence younger children not to give up and to strive for their dreams. I have a dream to give my parents all the happiness in the world. I have a dream to find out the real reason why God is keeping me alive. I have a dream to accomplish my goals and be the girl I’ve always hoped to be.
I have a dream that one day I will be able to return to my home and family. I have a dream that we will be whole again. I have a dream that I will be married with kids to love and to teach and that I can have a home of my own.
Home is where I belong
Home is where my heart lies
Home is where my life is
Home is my demise
Home is a place that is relaxing and comforting and sweet and warm. It is also a place where you can let all your problems out and talk about them and not be judged.
Home is your family
Your loved ones
And your self
Home is very soft and peaceful
Home is that place where everyone accepts you and loves you no matter what
You are nothing
Home is not for hate for arguing for fighting
It is a safe place to put your hat
Home is not jealousy or pretentiousness
It isn’t fake
It is warm cuddly safe
Home is not a battleground between parents
It is a safe haven for children to learn and grow to be themselves
Be who they want to be
Be who they will become
Home is something anything…everything
Home can be a word
Home can be a place
Or home can be a home
This place we have come to know
This word of our own artificial creation
Comes as natural as breathing, loving, or caring
For home isn’t just a word
Home is not a place to run away from
The world is not an item
Not a necessity
It is something you cherish and care for with all your heart
Home is not something you can throw in the closet and use whenever it is convenient to
Home is where I am not being abused
Home is where I know I am not alone
Home is where no one will put me down, tell me I am not wanted, that I was a mistake
Home is where I am not sold for drugs
Home is a place where I do not have to worry about my siblings being hurt
Home is not with my mom or my dad
That home is not a home
Hillsides is a home for me
A place where I can be myself
Hillsides is family
A family that will not give up on me
Hillsides is a little crazy at times
But good too
Hillsides is a place I can live in and not be judged
Hillsides is the place that took me in
Sometimes Hillsides can make me mad
And make me want to leave
But it is always a loving place
That I am happy to have been a part of
Thank you Hillsides for everything and thank you for giving me my brother, a home, and a family
Hillsides is like a family that loves me for who I am.
Hillsides is a place of many troublesome kids
Hillsides is a place where you long for the outside world
Hillsides is a place of many wonders
Hillsides is not a place where people get to do what they want to do
Hillsides is complicated, crazy, but sometimes peaceful
Hillsides is helpful, generous, loving and kind
Hillsides is full of people who care about what happens to us
Hillsides is not a great place for food
I am mysterious
I am sensitive
I am half monster and half human
I am funny
I am cheerful
I am adorable.
I am generous
I am helpful
I am loving
I am awesome
I am funny
I am a annoying sometimes
I am cranky
I am beautiful
I am spunky
I am Gir from Invader Zim
I am a Giant Cookie
I am hope
I am funny
I am smart
I am unique
I am scared
I am afraid
I am worried.
I am not a mistake.
Watch me jump and jump until I reach heaven, until I can see God and know the path I am meant to choose that will lead me to the rest of my life. Right now I haven’t jumped high enough or even gone far enough to know what my life holds for me. For now I am in God’s hands, until he hands me over the reigns to lead myself.
Watch me soar
Watch me live a successful life
Watch me have a family of my own
Watch me be as happy as can be
Watch me help others in need
Watch me grow up to be a star
I will light up the sky at night
I am a star with tons of color in me
Watch me grow into a better person
Watch me become a man and not a little boy
Watch me come up with a master plan
I am the man
Watch me follow my dreams
Watch me be happy
Watch me, just watch me, prove everyone who doubted me wrong.
Watch and listen to my footsteps traveling on the road to success
Watch me not give up
Just to see the doubters smile
Watch me do better than what everyone projected
Watch how slowly I work my way up and prove them all wrong
Watch me do something with my life
Watch me become somebody
Watch me make it in this big world
Watch me overcome all the abuse
Watch me heal
Watch us kick ass for the sake of our bounty and free-fruitify the world
Jump with us into the waves of forgiveness
Let our souls be one with ourselves and not take no for an answer
We will speak our mind and bring justice to the world
Run, love and live on
Our stories will be told
We are a legacy in silence
Now move on because we are on top of the world
We will succeed
And let the games begin