Valedictorian Speech from Miss Grace Williams, Class of 2015
Thank you, Fr .Fortin, Board of Trustees, Mr. Gillis, Mrs. Fortin, DR. Fugikawa, teachers, administrators, friends, family, fellow students and guests.
Six years ago, my brother and I sat in the HFA parking lot with tears streaming down our faces. We were about to shadow at Holy Family Academy that day and were completely terrified. We were shy little homeschoolers who saw school as a rather formidable place where you couldn’t take ten lunch breaks and would have to do something called “homework.”
Thankfully, I can stand here and tell you that we did survive our shadow day and even ended it wearing beaming smiles. And now, 6 years later, here we are with you today.
When I was thinking about what to say to you all, one of the first words that came into my head was, well, graduation. I know all my classmates will perhaps chuckle when they hear this, but one of the first thoughts that came to my mind was to look up the Latin root of the word “graduation.” The result of my investigation informed me that the word graduation comes from the Latin word grad that means “a step.” Interesting. It is not a completion or a finish line or an end. It is a step. A step in whatever direction you choose, and today I want to encourage you to take this step confidently with Christ by your side.
Something amazing has happened to the class of 2015. Our experience at HFA has been filled with so many crucial steps that have somehow transformed us from awkward little freshman into men and women prepared to set foot on our own journeys.
One golden drop of wisdom that I have never forgotten was given to me back in 9th grade. I believe that it was our first day of our freshman year and we had new classmates, teachers, and classes to take in all at once. I remember walking into our Greek History class with Mr. Lebish, and one of the first things he told us in his cheerful voice was that he was going to give us the key to success. Of course, our little freshman ears perked up at this remark because success was something we were all gunning for. Then he said quite simply: Attitude is everything. If you choose happiness and gratefulness, anything that happens to you will be fruitful. But this is a choice each of us have to make on our own.
I challenge you to think back on all the steps that have brought us to this day and consider what you want to take with you on this step past high school. When I recall these past few years, it is difficult to pinpoint when we have grown, because that’s the funny thing about change. You don’t realize that it has occurred until you look back on your former self and see the difference. Every teacher we have had, lesson we have learned, classmate who has come and gone, and friendship that has been formed has all been a part of this process. In 7th grade, I remember how we wandered through the two hallways, which then seemed rather enormous, frantically trying to look at our new schedules while heaving heavy backpacks full of new books, wondering where on earth our next class was. Everything seemed so confusing. As a senior this past year though, I can now navigate my way fairly well and have been blessed to guide the 7th graders, my sister included, through their entry way into HFA life.
Since coming to HFA, every time that someone asked me about my school, I always groaned a little inside. Not because I didn’t like my school, but because it was difficult for people to fathom that there does exist a senior class with only seven students. But I always tried to explain to people how appropriately our school was named. We are called Holy Family Academy because in a way, as cheesy as it may sound, we really are a family. In the classroom, on the field, the court, and in our carpools, we live and think and act with one another. I have formed friendships in and outside my class that I wouldn’t trade for the world. And as I leave my own family to go off to college, I will be leaving this one as well. But just as I wont forget my family at home, neither will I forget the one that I have here.
I feel immensely blessed to have been able to be a part of this journey of change with each and every one of you. If I had a couple of hours to speak to you all, that probably wouldn’t even be enough to properly thank all the teachers, administrators, parents, students, and friends who brought me here today. So instead, I will leave you with this thought.
When I was traveling in Rome this past Holy Week, I caught pneumonia during the second half of my visit. But being in Rome, I didn’t want to miss seeing anything, especially the Holy Father. So with a high fever and chills, I dragged myself to the papal audience on Wednesday to see the Papa. It was incredible to see and hear this loving father figure, and when he addressed the crowd, he spoke some words that I will never forget. While I sat there aching, very hot in the beating sun in St. Peter’s square, he spoke of Christ’s passion and death with the upcoming Easter Triduum. And though I cannot remember the exact words, I remember him humbly asking us to give our whole selves to Christ, to offer our bodies and souls to him so that at the end of our lives, we can confidently say that we have given everything to him. These words struck me as I sat there with my body aching but my heart yearning to give to Christ. So Gina, Sarah, Sarah, Joey, Christian, and Aaron, take this step forward and give yourselves to Christ so that he may guide you on your journey and lead you to your ultimate destination, when all your steps in life will be complete.