“At the ripe age of 5, during my kindergarten graduation, I said something bold and daring. As I stood there in my pint sized cap and gown, I waited patiently, with enough nerves to fill the entire room, while every other student told the audience what they wanted to be when they grew up. I was so anxious. I started playing with the zipper of my gown, pulling it up and down to mask how I was feeling in some way. When my time to shine finally arrived I gulped and said “When I grow up I want to be the first black female President of the United States.” And then, for two seconds, I felt relief. I had never wanted to be ordinary. When we were first asked to think about what we want to do in our future, my mind wandered to everything big and amazing that I could be. In that moment, I wasn’t just any little girl. I was a dreamer. But two seconds doesn’t last long and when the third came around every parent, relative, and guest started to laugh. I can’t remember what happened after that besides the feeling of utter embarrassment that washed over me. No other child had been laughed at. For a moment I questioned where I went wrong. Why me? Why my dream? Perhaps my dreams were too big, or perhaps I was not the right person to fill them.
After my graduation, I learned how to think small. I learned never to reach for more than what society may want from me. I learned that the sky is not always the limit. Or at least that’s what I thought before I got my red letter in the mail. Before I knew myself, I knew Mercy is where I belonged. I had no friends here, no idea of what high school was like. Would it be like the movies? Would I fit in? Would this really be some of the best years of my life? Within the first week of school, I thought I had the answer to these questions, but now three years later, I realize just how little I actually knew. “High school isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself.” When I look down at this ring, that’s what I think of. The people that I and the rest of the girls on this stage have become will forever be symbolized with this garnet stone. Each one of us has played a part in creating something beautiful. From freshman year field day when we thought we were going to win, to sophomore pin when the love between us reached a new high, to junior year field day when we thought we’d win… and then we actually did. Every free, every class, every dance brought us closer together. At times it seemed like we were a little too much to handle, like the drama would get the best of us, but the arguments only made us stronger in the end. In you all, I have found an energy that is unmatched. We stick up for one another no matter what, we build up one another no matter what, we love one another no matter what. And so, our rings will forever represent not just a bond, but a love that still grows stronger every day that we spend with one another.
It was here, in this very building, where that love took root. It was here where the Mercy High School community, where each and every one of you all, gave back to me what the laughter of the audience during my kindergarten graduation took all those year ago. Here you built me up. Here you showed me how to be a leader. Here you taught me that the dreams of a little girl who wanted to be President of the United States of America didn’t have to be just dreams, but that they could be goals. My Mercy ring is now the representation of all the values this school has instilled in me. It is determination, it is perseverance, it is black excellence. It is my ballot to becoming a dreamer once more. We are all unique, all valuable, all on the road to becoming the president of our own destiny. Linked by Catherine McAuley’s legacy, we each possess compassion, wield honor, and engage in service to others. In Mercy, we will forever be connected as a small vote in the greater election of female success.
And so, if I had to answer those questions that I had as an eager incoming freshman, here are the answers. Was it like the movies? Yes, in some ways it was like the movies. Perhaps on Wednesdays we don’t wear pink but we do wear plaid, and not just on Wednesdays, but on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays too. Did I fit in? Well, the little girl who entered Mercy with her shirt tucked into her skirt and a pair of wire glasses didn’t. But now being here with the rest of the senior class and mercy community, both past and present, I don’t just fit in. I am part of a true sisterhood, that goes beyond conformity. I have their vote, their trust and their love so to speak, and they will forever have mine. And lastly, were these some of the best years of my life? The answer to that is of course yes. However, in total honesty, they were certainly hard as well. But in the words of President Barack Obama, “nothing in life that’s worth anything is easy.”