Don’t Miss this Emotional and Moving Graduation “Statement”

Francine Chic_resizedA 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.

DANIEL

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…

To connect

NAHID

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.\

DJ

I used to think that candy was just a dream.  Now I know I am going to be on top of

the world.

NVARD

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

NOEMI

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.

RYAN

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

Son

I love you

NOEMI

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.

DANIEL

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.

OCTAVIA

Home is where I belong

Home is where my heart lies

Home is where my life is

Home is my demise

RYAN

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.

NVARD

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

Without home

You are nothing

DJ

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

JACOB

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…

Home

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

ALLEAHA

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

FRANCINE

Hillsides is like a family that loves me for who I am.

DANIEL

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

DJ

Hillsides is complicated, crazy, but sometimes peaceful

OCTAVIA

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

NVARD

I am mysterious

I am sensitive

I am half monster and half human

FRANCINE

I am funny

I am cheerful

I am adorable.

OCTAVIA

I am generous

I am helpful

I am loving

RYAN

I am awesome

I am funny

I am a annoying sometimes

DJ

I am cranky

I am beautiful

I am spunky

DANIEL

I am Gir from Invader Zim

I am a Giant Cookie

I am hope

NOEMI

I am funny

I am smart

I am unique

ALLEAHA

I am scared

I am afraid

I am worried.

But

I am not a mistake.

OCTAVIA

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.

DANIEL

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

And

Watch me help others in need

FRANCINE

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

RYAN

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

And say

I am the man

Watch me follow my dreams

Watch me be happy

NOEMI

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

ALLEAHA

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

Just

Watch me.

ALL

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

Just watch

And let the games begin

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