June 04, 2006

Valedictorian Speech

I feel like I’ve been here forever. I can hardly remember life before high school, before these halls, these parking lots, this football field. I was sitting against the wall outside of the choir room after school a few weeks ago, and from where I was sitting I could see the quad, the senior parking lot, and this mass of people walking by, Upland athletes, dancers, AP kids, those that defied labels, and those that made their own. But I think what astonished me more than the variety of individuals was the fact that I didn’t recognize half of them. Its amazing, and frightening in a way, that I was able to attend one school for four years, and still encounter countless people that I could swear I’d never seen before. Even more frightening was the realization that half of those students had no idea who I was. And so, sitting down to write this speech, I was faced with something more challenging than figuring out which pop culture reference to make, or whether to be funny or poignant, I wanted to be able to speak to every member of the senior class, even those of you that have never seen me before.

This challenge haunted me for a while, and I spent every passing period walking through campus, trying to figure out what we all had in common. I soon became so overwhelmed by the differences, the different languages, the different hairstyles, the different slang, the Hollister next to the Hot Topic, the pumas next to the combat boots, it was too much, so I just started staring at the ground. That's when it hit me, the one thing all of us had, it was right under my feet! The quad, or Scotland Yard, as I suppose some long gone administrator had wanted us to call it, has been there all these years, however much it has changed. It seems like a fantasy now, but when we were freshman, we had grass. We were so young then, even if we didn’t want to admit it. We were a lot like that grass, needing constant help to stay fresh and maintained. Sure, the quad had its wet spots, those places where the drainage was less than perfect, and all of us had to learn how to jump over those muddy areas when things didn’t go exactly as we had planned. But by the end of our freshman year, we got the hang of it. Despite this growth of experience, we had no idea what was to come, that some construction, some growth of a different sort, was on the horizon. That green fence! Those portables! Our sophomore and junior years, it seemed like Upland had become a war zone, and our quad, our common thread, was the center of combat. Despite all of our complaining, that construction was necessary, the school was simply growing too fast to stay the same. Again, the same could have been said for us. As we went from Sophomore to upperclassman territory, we outgrew old clothes, old ideas, even old friends. But that growth, while sometimes difficult and messy, was the construction that made us into who we are now.

Now? After all the construction, the progress of our quad and ourselves, where are we now? Senior year, the portables come down, the mess is cleaned up, and we’re left with... nothing. A far cry from our beautiful lawn of freshman year, the field of dirt is now a blank slate. There’s no need to worry about the long term, Upland students of tomorrow will reap the benefits of our war zone. But what about our own empty fields? In our minds, we leave that quad a field of dirt, but more than that, a field of possibilities. Years ago, we were so much like that freshly cut grass, we were so much a part of the dust of construction and difficult progress, and now we find ourselves trying to fill our own empty quads. I’ve seen the plans for the future quad, grass, trees, it really looks beautiful. I can’t say that I’ve seen all of the plans for our own future, but I know we have the opportunity to plant whatever we wish. Some of us will go on to plant gardens, some of us might favor this Astroturf of sports field fame, and some of us will keep watering the dirt until we are ready to move forward. Whatever we decide, we are going to grow. Congratulations, my fellow graduating class of 2006. As we leave Upland behind, we leave it together, and I can only wish that we may, each and every one of us, find our own field of dreams.


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