Text of WIHS 2012 Valedictorian Speech

The following is the text of the WIHS 2012 Valedictorian speech delivered by Stride Scholar Tenzin Yingsal:

Good afternoon parents, faculty, honored guests, Class of 2012! I feel extremely honored and privileged to be speaking here today on behalf of the graduating class of Washington Irving High School. It is a day that we thought would never come, yet here we stand commencing a new journey which will lead to numerous other journeys in our lives. Many of you have seen me either in class, or walking through the halls and as we stand here today, I now realize how little we truly know about one another so I would like to share with you all a short story of my life.

In the late fifties, after the Chinese occupation of Tibet, along with many other Tibetans and our spiritual leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, my parents went into exile and settled in a refugee camp in the Himalayan region of Nepal, where I was born and stayed for 10 years. I came to the United States in 2005; I was eleven years old and did not know what lay before me. I started middle school and it was my first introduction to the English language and American culture.

As I entered Washington Irving, I realized how quickly my life was changing. During the last four years, I have learned so much about myself and my own roots. I feel truly blessed to be a part of this welcoming and diverse community here at Washington Irving.

At this point in my life, I have a better idea of my past and present, and how I would like to see myself in the future. I know for a fact that I am the granddaughter of a traditional Tibetan doctor, a man of great honor and principles. His service to his community has been an inspiration to me and also a guide. Family stories have become legacies to me, helping define who and what I want to become.
I now know what I want to be. At least, I aim to become someone who will possibly join ‘Doctors without Borders’ one day and make a difference because I believe that the stronger nations and communities should help in providing basic health care to the underprivileged and oppressed everywhere.

Like me, many of you are also shaped by your own past histories that have influenced you to become who you are today as well as shaping what you look forward to tomorrow.

We all understand that in order to truly make a better future, it is essential that we understand who we are and remember where we come from, and we use this to create community by sharing our experiences and stories with each other.

Washington Irving has provided us with the chance to create a society, with boundless opportunities from competitive and rigorous academics, to challenging athletic teams, to beneficial extracurricular-activities. On behalf of the graduating class, I would like to thank the principal, teachers, guidance counselors, and staff. You all have motivated us to continue our education and helped us create goals to work toward. Your invaluable help and guidance in our studies have brought us thus far, and we can now positively anticipate the starting of the next chapter of our lives.

I would like to thank my mentor Ms. Saviola, my teachers Mr. Decker and Ms. Baker and my guidance counselor, Ms. Apeakorang for being such amazing people who have always been there to help me at all times. You all have helped me navigate this path and pushed me towards academic heights that I would have never achieved otherwise. I realize how much I’ve learned and accomplished because of you.

I would like to also thank the Stride Foundation and all its members. I would especially like to thank Roberta Brenner and her family for everything they have done for me. And last, but not least, I would like to thank my relatives, and of course, my family – my mom [thuk-che che Ama) my dad, and brothers, for always being there for me.

You’ve taught me the importance of education, how to gain respect from others, and most significantly, how to assume my roles as daughter, sister, friend and student. You have never failed to give me a shoulder to lean on whenever I needed it the most. Your love and support gave me the space to grow and become the person I am with the dreams I have today.

On behalf of the class, I would like to extend a warm thank you to all of our parents for always being there as we attempted to make sense of the world. You have been our role models, and have supported us throughout our high school years.

Now, I turn to you, my fellow Washington Irving graduates. We’ve done amazing things together. I have been inspired by so many of you, and with you I have been able to cultivate the true meaning of friendship.
So I would like to thank all my friends and in particular Araceli, Sandipa, and Viviana, you are the best! I can say that my friends have given immense meaning to my high school years from the many crazy and wonderful moments through the bad, the confusing, and good times.

You have made so many moments that began in doubt or confusion, end in joy. Thank you. We shared these struggles with our teachers, and each day was a new beginning, and no matter what happened, each one of us learned something that allowed us to better understand the roads we have and will travel.

We live in a highly developed and diverse country where we should not take anything for granted, and I feel that we all are very fortunate to have all the opportunities that others in disadvantaged countries are unable to enjoy. History has shown us time and again that all great things began with individuals and their dreams; and the best dreams begin with love and understanding. The conception of a more peaceful and happier society has to begin with individual hard work and passion. Let us all strive collectively with imagination, courage, and optimism to bring about a better world in the years to come.

I say to you, my fellow graduates that some of us will follow in footsteps that we can’t yet imagine. My hope is that the Washington Irving High School community enjoys peace and prosperity, and that each of you in the Class of 2012, have a successful and cheerful future, in which your wildest dreams are realized.

Thank you.

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