Valedictorian Speech: You have earned your spot to succeed

By Julissa Jasmine Medina, Valedictorian
Julissa will be attending University of Notre Dame in the fall

First and foremost, I want to thank some important people who have made an impact in my life. Mom: I am so blessed to have been brought into this world by such an amazing, hardworking, and caring individual. You are one of the strongest people I know, and everyday you amaze me with how kind and compassionate you are. Thank you for being so open, and always supporting me.

Karina: We have definitely had our ups and downs throughout high school, but I am thankful that we were able to work through it all, and get to where we are now. Thank you for always being so honest and carefree. Alex: You are such a fun and sweet person to be around. Thank you for always making me smile when nothing else can, and showing me that life does not always have to be so serious. Jose: You have been such an amazing motivation in my life recently, and I feel so blessed to have met you. I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for us.

My Schuler family: Jenny, Dane, Any, Alex, and all of those who have had to leave along the way, especially Jacky and Tyra, you guys have become some of my closest friends. Thank you for the endless laughs. Teachers and staff: I think I speak for everyone when I say we could not have asked for more hardworking, or dedicated people to work at this school. Thank you for your tireless efforts to help us improve, both academically, and as people. To everyone else that touched my heart, not mentioned by name; I’m very sorry, but just know I appreciate you all greatly.

Now, I mulled over this speech, and what I should make of it, for entirely too long. I tried asking friends, watching videos about “how to make a good speech,” and watching other people’s speeches- none of that felt right to me. Finally, I decided to consider my own insecurities about school.

As I get ready to undertake this next journey through college, I cannot help but psych myself out, and tell myself that I have not been adequately prepared to deal with the challenges that I foresee myself facing. I am sure, or at least I like to believe, that I am not alone in this.

During a Schuler presentation that I had not too long ago, I shared these feelings. One of the scholar coaches who attended that presentation later emailed me saying, “Going to college isn’t easy. It’s actually incredibly brave because you’re going into the unknown as an 18 year old; about to embark on an adventure that might not always be sunshine and butterflies. You talked about not feeling as smart or qualified as some of your potential peers at your university. That feeling is normal- in fact, there’s a name for it: Imposter Syndrome.” Imposter syndrome is defined as a psychological pattern in which people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud.”

I did not know it at the time, but during my summer college program at the University of Pennsylvania, I struggled greatly with this affliction. The huge lecture halls, complex labs, and intricate small group discussions seemed like too much for someone like me. I questioned why I was there with all of these insanely smart, rich, and predominantly white kids. This fear led my summer college program experience to be not so amazing. I have worried that this is what will happen when I leave this fall for my actual college experience.

Throughout my time at Cristo Rey, I have unwittingly built a persona for myself. Many people assume that school has been easy for me; that I have been able to fly by without trying as hard as others.

But this is not true at all.

Despite what some might believe, I have struggled just as much, if not more so, than the average high school student. This persona that I have gone through high school with makes me question whether it is truly my hard work that has gotten me to this point, to be speaking with you all here today. So I am telling myself, just as much as I am telling all of you, that you are all incredible human beings, capable of making something of yourselves.

Through blood, sweat, and tears, you have earned your spot in whatever college, university, workplace, etcetera, you are going to, just as much as the next person. Do not let anybody, including yourself, make you feel like you do not belong there. I know it is hard to believe in yourself sometimes, but it is vital, as you leave home, and this tight knit community, to remember that you are capable, and you have long proven so.

Where you come from, and what you have struggled through, does not make you less than anybody else, but stronger. You might not have been given all of the same opportunities as some of the people that you will meet have been given, but that does not mean you cannot achieve just as much. Try not to doubt yourself, always do your personal best, never give up, and you will succeed in your own individual way.

I have such high expectations and hopes for all of us, and I cannot wait to see what amazing things we will all make of ourselves. Congratulations Cristo Rey St. Martin class of 2018. Good luck, and God bless.