Last Thursday, Hancock College Prep’s first Selective Enrollment class graduated. This is the speech David Rodriguez, the valedictorian, delivered before diploma distribution.
We sit here today, as the first Selective Enrollment graduating class and, although a great feat, we must remember those who came before us and treasure the path we have paved for those behind us.
Four years ago, we all looked at our acceptance letters and hoped we would go to Whitney, Jones, Northside, or Payton; we all wondered “What the hell is Hancock?”
A simple Google search would portray a small run-down building hiding behind a tapestry of trees on the Southwest side—and we all wondered what was to come.
Many of us chose it because it was our only acceptance or because it was the nearest to our homes, but no matter how we got into the chair we are sitting in today, I am glad we stuck around.
Today, we impatiently daydream trying to pass the time as fast as we can. Many of us can now sigh in relief as finals are over and a summer full of memories awaits us. But today just happens to be the day we all take countless roads, the day where we say our goodbyes and close this chapter of our lives.
And my question to you is “Where to?”
Some of us will head to the islands of knowledge, others to mountains of courage and prosperity, plains of creativity, and oceans of wonder. Many of us will travel narrow bridges of ambivalence and others broad roads omnisciently. And although we all may have divergent journeys in this life, we all began with the same point of departure.
When I find myself looking back, the last thing I want to do is think What If? I don’t want to allude to the past, thinking of all the could haves and should haves. I want to think less about all the effort put forth forth to excel, and more about the experience and the growth that develops throughout the journey of initiative. Sometimes, it will end in defeat.
The opportunity of failure is more than just making mistakes and learning from them, it is about accepting that failure does not limit us or define our future. For academically well-versed students as ourselves, we pride ourselves on our conquests . However, we reap the greatest morals of our high school careers when we do just the opposite; when we find ourselves amidst misadventure and incompetence.
Ignorantly and often overlooked, it isn’t about what works, but what does not work, not all the trophies, but all the epiphanies of creativity. Sometimes, the only way to succeed is to fail at first. And at that, fail miserably.
As Selective Enrollment students, great responsibility has been endowed upon us to succeed and to achieve. And as I look around this auditorium, I see the faces of a diverse community full of future creators and world shapers that have done just that.
Four years have flown by, and now, the time has come for us to decide where to excel next, where to continue to flourish, where to carry on the values of an Eagle.
Today, the grandeur and allure of the other Selective Enrollment schools that we did not attend does not seem that appealing.
This diploma from Hancock is worth more than what we ever imagined. Hancock and the West Elsdon community have grown parallel to us and has become what we define it to be. From clear backpacks and stories about nuns in the basement, to competing as on of the best high schools in the city and graduating a senior class with exceeding merit. We embody respect, integrity, and responsibility.
We will walk away with this diploma proudly and remember where we came from, and for me, that is a place that taught me not only to accept moments of disappointment, but embrace them. A place where I not only grew into the young Latino man who rewrote his own narrative, but where I learned to see the humanity within the characters that surround me.
Now, when people ask me “What the hell is Hancock?” I still hesitate, not because of the plaques and medals that swallow the yellow halls, or the vibrant mosaics in the halls. I hesitate because the nostalgia is something I wouldn’t trade for anything else. I hesitate because Hancock was all of this and more.
Hancock was a second home to many of us, a refuge, and a place that garners hope of a bright future. A future that I hope you can be proud of. And if you find that you are not, I hope you have the accountability to accept life and move on, because failure should not be the end of the road, just the starting point for the next leap forward.
This is the price you pay for having a great foundation. You get the confidence, the knowledge, the joyful moments– and you get the goodbye at the end, too.
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