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West Orange Times & Observer Friday, May 20, 2022 1 month ago

Dr. Phillips High School: Valedictorian's speech

We are a very talented and exceptional group. We are the past, we are the present, and we will be the future.

I wouldn’t want to be cliche, but time really did fly by. From being freshmen who were intimidated by our large campus and new faces (and) feeling lost to becoming seniors who felt like we finally ruled this school, we grew, changed and built character to make us the people we are today. And as we take a moment to recall those days — from dressing up for spirit week and getting weird stares to going to our school dances and dancing the night away, — despite all the awkwardness, we can now look back and laugh. But I won’t lie and say that high school was always full of fun and laughter. There were days we didn’t want to be here, and we were stressed with our classes, but that’s exactly what makes this graduation special. We have worked day and night, sometimes doubting ourselves, but we pushed through and always gave our best. 

As this day comes to an end and we are taking a step forward to start a new journey, I want everyone to remember who they are and what they have become. We might not have the same path in life, but we are all unique and worthy. And regardless of how cheesy this might sound, remember to never doubt yourself. We might not know right now all that life has to offer, but if we continue with our head held high, we can find ourselves feeling confident in who we are. Life isn’t a race nor is it supposed to be, so take everything in — the good and bad days — and relish these moments because time never goes backwards. 

At some point today, I hope we all thank our parents, siblings, teachers, friends and whoever we feel supported us throughout these years. As much as I want to take credit for being here giving this speech, it honestly wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my parents and brother. I couldn’t be more appreciative to my family. So to my mom, thank you for always being there day and night, for pushing me but never burning me out. For being my No. 1 supporter and having confidence in my abilities. Thank you to my dad for never questioning my choices and trusting in me even when I doubted myself. For giving me your support, both emotionally and financially. Like a child learning how to walk, you both always stood behind me in case I fell. I’m truly grateful for everything you both have done for me, the sacrifices you’ve made and the love you’ve given me throughout my life. Lastly, thank you to my brother for being the Luigi to my Mario, for making me laugh when I am sad and for always having my back. And even though (we) might be polar opposites, north and south, day and night, we have a bond that is unbreakable even with the greatest force. But most importantly, thank you for being the best role model. Seriously, most of us don’t realize it, but we are setting an example for our younger sibling by being here at graduation. Five years ago, my brother presented his speech and that moment became one of my biggest motivations to continuously push myself. 

Today, as we walk across the stage, I want everyone in the audience to remember these faces. We are a very talented and exceptional group. We are the past, we are the present, and we will be the future. We are future doctors, lawyers, engineers, actors, musicians, so please don’t count us out, but instead count on us. Believe in us and we will set the bar up higher for generations to come.   

This day is bound to be filled with emotions for all of us. Relief to have finally graduated, excitement to start a new chapter, or the nostalgia that high school might not have been perfect, but I believe we are going to miss it. And while we go our separate ways, I think it is important to remember that we will always be connected. And so to my fellow classmates, when you leave here, remember what you have accomplished and the people who have inspired you, because today, you have become an inspiration for others.

— Vanita S. Kotadia

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