Hundreds of Baldwin High School’s graduating seniors joined family members, friends, teachers and administrators on the school football field June 26 to celebrate the conclusion of their high school careers and tip their hats to the future.
At the district’s 111th commencement, Valedictorian Nijha Young invited her classmates to reflect on their past, embrace the present and look forward to the future.
“We are not defined by how people perceive us, but by how we perceive ourselves,” Young told the crowd. “Though the past has helped shape us, we are not our past. We must choose who we are now and who we will become. A person’s value is not made by numbers or scores, because we’re worth — no, we’re capable — of so much more.”
Salutatorian Brittany Monroy reflected on the challenges and accomplishments that she and her classmates faced during their four years. “These years were not always easy to navigate, but they have molded us into unique and incredible individuals,” she said. “With the knowledge gained in our time here, we are ready to leap into the future, where the possibilities that lie ahead are limitless.
“These last four years,” Monroy continued, “have culminated in a sense of unity and community among us. We have a better grasp of who we are, and we must acknowledge and be grateful for the opportunities that we have been given throughout our time here. It is with great honor that I say we are a class of musicians, scholars, artists and athletes. We are among a wealth of diversity. We are the class of 2019.”
The seniors in the Concert Choir performed for the last time together, singing “America the Beautiful” to help conclude Baldwin’s 111th commencement. The 389 graduating seniors then threw their mortarboards into the air.
“As humans, and perhaps as adolescents and teenagers in high school, we may be programmed to fear the unknown, when, in reality, we should anticipate it with open arms,” Young said. “The bad news about the future is that anything can happen, and the good news about the future is that, well, anything can happen.”
School board trustees, administrators, faculty members and Superintendent Dr. Shari Camhi bid farewell to the class of 2019 and wished them good fortune in the next phases of their lives.
“Be the person you were meant to be and not the person others want you to be,” Camhi said. “Always stand up for yourself. They say anything worth doing will not be easy. Well, it will not be easy, but it will be worth doing. Do what you need to do, be whatever you want to be. No one can stop you. You are all smart, strong, compassionate, moral and ethical. Be fearless, courageous, persistent and tenacious.”
School Board President Annie Doresca emphasized the need to fail in order to succeed. “No one can succeed without failing,” she told the graduating class. “People view failure as a step back, but I could not disagree more. Failure is a step forward toward your goal. As you move forward, you will continue to fail. You may even find many of your college classes difficult, but what you will not do is give up. You will not quit on anything that you do. Your mistakes do not limit you, only your fears do.”
She asked that the students be brave, curious and kind as they enter the world of adulthood. “Know that I believe in you — we all believe in you,” Doresca said. “In the words of Nipsey Hussle, ‘Instead of trying to build a brick wall, lay a brick every day. Eventually you’ll look up and you’ll have a brick wall.’”
Camhi encouraged the seniors to make the most of their time.
“If there is one idea I want you to take away today, it is that time goes ever so quickly,” she said. “Don’t wait when you can act now. Before you know it, you’ll be 10, 20, 30 years older and wondering where time went. So, graduates, don’t waste time, because time is precious . . . You only get one shot at this gift we call life. Believe in yourself, believe you can change the world — I do. Be strong, be happy, be proud. I can’t wait to see what you accomplish, and always remember: We are innovative, we are involved, we are inclusive, we are Baldwin.”