How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez inspired Chicago Public Schools students

How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez inspired Chicago Public Schools students
Emily Aguado welcoming guests to the Hancock College Prep 2019 commencement ceremony

Each year, Chicago Public Schools students at Hancock College Prep pitch ideas for a graduation ceremony theme.  The quote should be from a socially responsible person who made an impact during their senior year.

This year, Senior Emily Aguado submitted a quote from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  This is how Aguado explained the significance of the quote and welcomed guests at Thursday’s commencement ceremony:

Good evening everyone, it is my pleasure to welcome you all to the graduation ceremony for John Hancock College Prep’s Class of 2019.

Buenas tardes, es un placer para mi darle la bienvenida a todos ustedes por estar presente en nuestra ceremonia de graduación de la generación del 2019. Witamy, Huanying, Ahlan.

I want to take a moment to thank all of the parents, family and friends who have gathered here tonight for their love and encouragement, and all members of the faculty and staff for their guidance and instruction.

A special recognition to our principal Mr. Herrick and our assistant principals, Ms. Garfield and Ms. Puentes-Hernandez for all that they’ve done during our four years here at Hancock. Without any of your support, all of us wouldn’t be graduating here tonight.

Fellow graduates, I want to congratulate all of you for having the honor of being the first selective enrollment and Careers-to-Education class to graduate from our high school. All of the hard work that we have put into our studies has brought us to the end of a successful chapter.

At this evening’s ceremony, we draw upon the wisdom of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as her words serve as the inspiration for our graduation’s theme.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a U.S Representative for the state of New York, and at 29 years old, became the youngest woman to serve in the United States Congress. Being a member of the working class and of the minority population, Ocasio-Cortez has served as an example of what diligence and perseverance can accomplish, as she took on multiple jobs, working as a waitress and bartender before her election win.

Thus, this year’s theme is, “They’ll tell you you’re too loud, that you need to wait your turn and ask the right people for permission. Do it anyway.” In her statement, Ocasio-Cortez highlights the difficulties that are associated with identifying as part of the lower social class and of a ethnic or racial minority. She argues that it is time for all of us to be fearless and to venture into what may be the unknown in order to pursue what we want for our future.

The theme for Hancock College Prep's Class of 2019 Commencement Ceremony

The theme for Hancock College Prep’s Class of 2019 Commencement Ceremony

Ocasio-Cortez broke through the glass ceiling when she decided that she didn’t want to follow the status quo and instead, wanted a change in the political system of the United States. I chose her words to represent our class in moving forwards into our career and post-secondary plans because we’ve all come from different backgrounds and demographics that have made us feel hesitant about our competence.

We’ve faced challenges in our communities that have restrained us from reaching greater opportunities and from following our dreams. Nevertheless, my fellow graduates, we have learned to thrive in our environment and face the obstacles that have come with being part of the first Selective Enrollment school on the Southwest side of Chicago.

We have developed a voice, an identity that will not succumb to those who deem themselves as superior.

The political ideologies of Ocasio-Cortez, however, may stand against the principles of many and cause her critics to not give her credence.

Despite this criticism and aside from her respective party and views, Ocasio-Cortez is a symbol of who we can become and what we can accomplish. She reminds us that in order to continue progressing, we must test the limits and pave the way for opportunity, such as she did when she beat out a twenty-year incumbent her first time running for office.

I’m proud to say that our graduating class is embodied by individuals who have begun to reach the impossible and have the courage to seek change. Enjoy our celebration and thank you.

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