by Kristalyn Patzkowski
At the end of this article is Kristalyn’s valedictorian speech.
Graduation was a time of great excitement and anticipation! There were rehearsals to attend, and friends and teachers to say farewell to. As the final days turned into hours, and hours turned into minutes before we had to proceed to our seats on the Reedley High School football field, my classmates and I were starting to feel the sting of nervousness. I, who had the duty of being the featured speaker of the evening, was feeling that nervousness the most. That was probably due to the fact that nearly thirty people came up to me before the ceremony began just to ask me how I was doing, and if I was nervous. Among those people were some of my high school teachers (ranging in all subject areas), my seventh grade teacher, Mrs. Ruth, and my elementary school principal, Mrs. Stanley. I knew they all wanted to see, and hear me deliver my speech well, but for a single instant, I wished the ceremony would hurry and commence.
Unfortunately, the ceremony did finish quickly, more quickly than I would have ever hoped for.
It started with the processional. The Reedley High School Pirate band played Pomp and Circumstance, and the seniors made their way to their seats, except for a group of sixteen students who stayed standing in the center of the field. They were the valedictorians, and Mr. Cisneros would acknowledge them and the salutatorians before they went to their seats. He also acknowledged the students wearing green and white chords, signifying GPAs of 3.5 and higher, and the gold chords, which meant the given student had achieved a lifetime membership of the California Scholarship Federation. Immediately afterwards, Mr. Cisneros gave us a short speech about what a pleasure the last four years had been. Herminia Montes, who was seated almost directly in front of me, turned around to face me. “Good luck with your speech, Kristalyn,” she whispered. Feeling confident that I had more time before I would have to walk up to the podium, I smiled and listened to the Madrigals sing, “Don’t Stop.”
Then I heard Mr. Cisneros announce my name.
“As one of this year’s valedictorians, Kristalyn Patzkowski has a few words she would like to say to her class.”
I walked up the microphone, and I realized how many eyes were on me. But in that instant, the butterflies disappeared from my stomach. I wasn’t about to address the crowd of 5,000 people sitting in the bleachers. I was about to address my fellow graduates. As I was speaking over the microphone, I would take a few instances to lookout into the sea of familiar faces. Everyone was silent. Everyone was frozen. Everyone was captivated. That, in my opinion, is what a valedictorian speech should accomplish.
Walking back to my seat, I felt a sense of relief but also a sense of sorrow. The ceremony was coming to a close and I would not see many of these students again, or at least, not anytime soon. Thankfully, we were given a few more moments as we were given our diplomas to listen to Mr. Juan Garza certify the class as a whole, and watch the fireworks illuminate the sky. With that, the band played the recessional, and we graduates exited the field.
I’ve attended graduations before, and I’ve participated in graduations as a member of the band, but this particular graduation was different. It flew by, similarly to my four years at Reedley High School. It ended, and I was left with more questions than I had gone in with. We graduates may have been given the spotlight that evening, but I believe we received something of greater value and importance. We were given a metaphorical lamp (love and continuous support), and each of us is expected to refer to it in the future. I’m sure my classmates and I are going to go on to achieve marvelous things and we’re going to make our parents, our teachers, and our community proud. For that, I’d like to thank everyone who came out to the ceremony and those of you who kept the Class of 2012 in your thoughts and prayers.
Valedictorian Speech: Class of 2012
Being one of the sixteen valedictorians and having the opportunity to write a valedictorian speech is an incredible honor, and when I was writing, I knew that I wanted this speech to be just right. I looked for inspiration, for something that I could say to all of you that would be relatable. I sat on one of the couches in my living room, turned on my laptop and began typing. Feeling a little defeated and inspirationally dry, I started to play some music on my iPod. Without thinking, I turned to a song by Matthew West, and instantly, I had an answer. The song was titled, “The Story of Your Life.” It had the perfect message that related to this graduation day. In this song, Matthew West sang, “Is this the end, or only the beginning?” This is my question for you, Class of 2012: Is graduation an end or a beginning? Let’s find out!
Believe it or not, between August 20, 2008, and today, June 7, 2012, 1387 days have passed. That may seem like a lot of days, but really, in the span of a lifetime, four years is only a miniscule amount of time. Ironically, though, that was enough time for our parents, our teachers, and our peers to impact our lives and decisions that we would make for our futures. They are the reasons why we have all made it to this day. If you haven’t already done so, I’d like you to, after the ceremony, find one of your teachers, and give them a hug. Tell them how much they REALLY meant to you.
Before I get too carried away, let me share with you one of my favorite memories of high school. On the first day of school, I found myself sitting in Mr. Fernandez’s classroom, in the math department. I was lost in thought, thinking about this new life that I had in front of me and the expectations that had already been placed upon me. A man, with a striking resemblance to my grandfather walked into the room to talk briefly to Mr. Fernandez. After having reached into my backpack and put on my glasses, I could tell that this man was certainly not my grandfather. I later found out that his name was Don Friesen, and later, he would become my teacher for Pre- Calculus Honors and Calculus AP. While Mr. Friesen is one of my favorite teachers, he is not the only teacher that I have met and grown fond of during my four years here.
For that reason, I wish I had enough time to thank every one of my teachers, present, past, and future.
While it can be viewed that this speech is my own, I must clarify that it also belongs to all of you. It signifies your achievements, your failures, your lessons, and above all, your memories. We all have memories, and I asked a few of my senior friends and classmates to share some of theirs. Here are just a few of the replies that I received. Martha Garcia said, “Meeting my best friend, Jessee Clindinin, was one of my most memorable moments. I will never regret meeting her.” Kyle Kawagoe also formed new friendships, especially “during the second day of band camp.” Most of his friends were, as he would call them his “trumpet buddies.” Destiny Magana said, “I remember our first Selma Band review. I remember the spirit of the crowd and loved feeling like I was a part of something special.” Ronny Schmitz found assurance in knowing that she, “had some of the best teachers that genuinely cared” for her success. Yesenia Cuevas also reflected on memories. She said, “My favorite memory was of the Entre Nous initiation, during junior year. It was so wacky and fun. You just don’t get many experiences like that!” Indeed, these experiences have come and gone, and many of them were described as once-in-a-lifetime. However, I assure you all, there are plenty of memories still to come, starting with this evening!
As individuals, we have all had our own moments, but as a class, we have shared moments too. During freshmen orientation, we took pictures, we reunited with some of our friends, and we sat down in the Performing Arts Theater. We listened to Mr. Cisneros talk and give us a few words of encouragement, for we all, included Mr. Cisneros, were about to embark on a four-year journey. Many other times, we sat in the PAT or in the bleachers, here, outside, for rallies. We gathered money to pay for a new mascot costume, and learned the words to the Fight Song, so we could sing it on cue. We exhibited school spirit, attended sporting events, and performed in the band. We attended dances and other school functions, and we spent valuable time with friends. Last year, we all sat entranced when Adam spoke to us about Rachel’s Challenge and urged us to make a difference in each of our lives. We shared others tears and have been with each other in times of need. We confided in each other, and formed unbreakable friendships, which will last through college and through life. We shared hugs, smiles, and warm memories. We also shared hope, and that is what I hope each of you continues to carry in the years to come.
I’ll admit graduation is an ending. We are no longer going to come through these gates every morning at 8 o’clock sharp, and we are no longer going to sit in those desks until 3:06 anymore. However, graduation is a beginning too. Many of us are going to leave town, in different directions, to different cities, and to different states. Some of us are going to attend colleges and universities. We are going to get degrees and pursue a variety of occupations. Others are going to start work or internships immediately. They will also have careers. I suppose this makes graduation a time of transition. We are all going to meet new people. We are all going to have to learn to live by ourselves, how to become independent, and we are going to have to make decisions for ourselves. Near the end of the song, Matthew West sang, “Go tell the story of your life, ‘cause it’s a story worth telling.” That’s what I urge you to do, class of 2012. Go tell the stories of your lives, and if you don’t like how they seem to be turning out, change your stories. After all, high school has given you all the right tools.
All that there’s left for me to say is congratulations Class of 2012!!!