after 8 years of wishing
my oldest daughter got THE phone call this past Monday
She had the highest grade point average in her class
she was officially the Valedictorian of the Winston School 2011
Here is the speech she wrote
She spoke so beautifully
of the support
and trying times she had experienced in recent years
She received a standing ovation
she deserved it wholeheartedly
I was in awe of her truthfulness
I am very blessed
When I was in fourth grade, I learned they had an award for being the best at academics. So ever since, because I have always been a hard worker and studious, I’ve dreamed of becoming valedictorian. If anyone asked me why, it would be very hard to explain. It was something I dreamed about at my previous school, a very competitive private school that constantly filled me with stress. When I began to excel at Winston, it was something I hoped was finally possible. And when I missed the first six weeks of school during my junior year because I was at a residential treatment center, I hoped I had not messed up my chances. To me, valedictorian has always represented the achievement of overcoming the odds, which is why I am proud to stand before you today. I have overcome my difficulties, and without Winston, it would not have happened.
At my old school I did nothing but study, or cry that I needed to study. I came home and passed out on my bed fully clothed from all the stress. My parents pulled me out of that school, something I will always be thankful for. They sent me to The Winston School, which is right behind my house, and that I walk to each day. I’ve always thought that was pretty sweet.
I felt better at Winston, but not all the way. This is because I had more problems than my learning differences, dyslexia, dysgraphia, and ADHD, which my peers have also. My main problem was my anxiety and depression, which could not be cured through a simple change in environment. My stress from the academics of school was lifted, because Winston’s atmosphere fit me a lot better. I loved that people were not asking me my grade on my last test every second, as this kind of competitiveness can get very taxing. The problem, though, was my anxiety and depression were causing me problems socially. I had no friends. I did not even really start talking to people until the end of my 10th grade year. But when I did start to talk to people, I learned that our class is one great bunch of kids.
When I started to stretch my social muscles, our class of 2011 was always very inclusive. They are nice to everyone, and through this they taught me to be more social. I’ve learned how to approach people, and to not stay in the shadows. This is one of the reasons I will always love Winston.
Of course, it is not the only reason. Winston will always have my appreciation for how they helped me at the beginning of my junior year. I missed the first six weeks of school to go to a residential treatment center to work on my anxiety, depression, and anger. I was nervous about missing so much school, which I guess isn’t saying much considering that I have chronic anxiety, but it truly was driving me mad. Then, while I was at the treatment center, I got a card from Mr. Della Costa. This one card made me feel better. I was worried about teachers being mad at me about missing too much school work, but Mr. Della Costa’s card not only made me feel better about returning to band, but also about returning to school in general. Mr. D wished me well, told me how band was going, and said he would not start drum line until his student director returned. The last line said, “So hang in there and whenever you are ready to start band- come in!” And I did hang in there. I got out of the residential treatment center, as a much happier and calmer person, right before my birthday. I was back at school just in time for the second six weeks grading period, and everyone was very nice about my return.
My first day I walked in the school as if I was walking on broken glass, because I was scared to see anyone and hear what they were going to say. This worrying was unnecessary because the first person I saw welcomed me back and gave me a hug. People also knew not to ask me too many questions, which filled me with relief. My friends had even gotten a bunch of people to sign a welcome back poster for me. When I returned, my peers made me feel important. They helped me with my transition back to school.
Everyone at Winston understood that I was going through a hard time, and they were very accommodating. My teachers were understanding about the situation, and helped me get caught up in all my classes. I was very worried about the college process, and I thought my time at the residential center had ruined my chances of making it into a “good” college. Ms. Carlson, though, showed me that everything was fine and I still had the chance to go to any college I wanted. She also showed me that a good college is not defined as an Ivy League school, but the school that is right for me.
I felt sick a lot, so I would often go to Nurse Heck, who I met that year. She always helped me feel better, and she was always there to talk. Sometimes I would just talk to her for almost a whole class period, because she had the ability to calm me after any panic attack. I also had to leave school early, but the administrators and my classmates were always very understanding. Slowly, the Winston environment was helping me to grow.
The next year I was voted Homecoming Queen, and I must say I was probably the most surprised person at that football game. This had been voted on by my peers, and it showed how far I had come. Thanks to Winston I had friends, people thought I was kind, and I now had the confidence to stand in front of friends, family, even strangers.
This year, I have felt more confident and hopeful. Despite all the college and senior excitement, Winston allowed me to dedicate my time to Vogel Alcove, a childcare center for homeless children, two days a week during spring semester. I am sure my absences worried some, but to me they represent the first time I could emotionally put others ahead of my academics. This was an enormous step for me and thanks to everyone who allowed this to happen.
So I stand here today, as valedictorian. My goal was reached, but my feelings are different. I have worked not only on my learning differences, but also on my anxiety and depression, which I know some of my classmates have struggled with as well. I have made friends and grown as a person. To the Winston community, I will always be grateful. To my classmates, The Winston Class of 2011, if you guys can help someone like me, which all of you did in your own way, you can do anything. All of you are amazing people, who I know will go far in life. Also, speaking on behalf of the class, I would like to thank all the parents, siblings (in my case sisters) and extended family, because like my own family, you have helped make us become the successful adults we are today.
Congratulations Class of 2011, we are graduating today, having overcome one thing or another. Look back at your lives, and you will also see how far you have made it. We should all be proud of what we have accomplished.