Valedictorian Address–Allan Donald
To AEC’s Class of 2012
by Allan Donald
June 22nd, 2012
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.”
That is a quote by Amelia Earhart. I found it in my English exam that had the theme ‘Decisions’. I thought the theme of the exam was quite funny and ironic because decisions are what brought us all here, and each one of us has a story.
Take mine for example. I made one bad decision that had a chain reaction of bad happenings. The start of this chain was that I dropped out of high school because having ADHD made it too hard for me.
Being 18 with no high school, I got stuck with a low paying job, and got a credit card to buy the things that I couldn’t afford with my low pay. Next thing I knew, I was in debt equal to a year’s pay.
With this kind of debt I ended up getting one of those crappy, but good paying, jobs where I ended up hurting my back. This injury, eventually, caused me to lose the very job that caused it.
With an injured back and no education, it was impossible to get a job. This caused me to become very depressed, and have some pretty dark thoughts. Everything in my life was falling apart.
Luckily, I ran into a girl that told me how she recently signed up at an adult high school. With really nothing else to lose, I looked up some schools and found AEC, and signed up myself.
But that is just my story. All of you I am speaking for today share similar stories, some not as bad, and some even worse. These stories could range anywhere from a person just wanting to better understand the English language, being a single mother, or getting into drugs during school.
But the most important part is that we made the right decision of coming back and seeing it through to the end. This is not a simple task. This is not like the first time you went to high school where at the end of the day you just simply went home to your parents’ house.
This time it is much different, and much more difficult. Now we have to go to work after school, pick up and take care of our kids, make sure the bills are paid, face our fears, and much more.
This list alone can make life tough for most people. Now imagine all that with school and homework thrown into the mix. This may have been the toughest year or years for some of you, myself included. There were times when I wanted to give up, but I never did.
I owe this to the students and staff at this school, and my family. Whenever I felt like giving up, someone was always there to keep me on track. Right from the start I owed Glen a huge thanks.
I worried that I would just fail English like every other time in the past, but Glen was the first teacher, ever, to make me understand grammar and punctuation. He was even kind enough to correct my grammar and punctuation in Psychology, so, as a gift, I printed out an extra copy of my speech for him to correct. You can think of it as a parting gift Glen.
Melissa and Sheryl, for making it fun to go to school with both the smiles and the heartfelt conversations.
Sherry and Big daddy Kookamungus (some of you may know him as Steven) for making me realize that even though my life seemed like a living hell at times, I was never alone.
Linda, for making me realize my strengths and that I have the capability to achieve a lot more than I give myself credit for, such as becoming a vegan after watching just a few class videos.
Sue, for being my in-school mom, phoning me every class I missed when I was thinking of quitting, making sure I was always fed whenever she thought I was hungry, and, lastly, entertaining us with her excitement about her newly learned use of the word “troll”.
Damien, even though you thanked me for helping you through school, I owe you equal thanks for helping me. You had me constantly doing my best out of fear of losing our bet, which, by the way, I won. And Damien, feel free to feel famous like you said you would.
Lastly and most importantly, my family. Though they never said it, I always felt like I let them down by dropping out of school, so hearing them continuously tell me how proud they are of me made it a lot easier to stick it through to the end. Thanks to their support, I managed to achieve marks similar to the ones I was always jealous of my sister for.
Like our stories, our thanks go to different staff and students, but they are all for the same reason. For helping us get here today. But do not let that take away from your own accomplishment. You may owe your family, new friends, and teachers a lot of thanks, but it was your choice to take those first steps of getting here. We were all here just to help you along the way.
It was all of your hard work and dedication that got you to grad, no one else’s. Just like it will be your hard work and dedication that will take you to your next stage in life, and, to those of you who are afraid of that next stage, don’t be.
Because, today is not only “the day you graduated high school”, it is the day that you proved that you could overcome your biggest fear and hardships, and the day that you proved to yourself that you can do anything you want to do, and you will have your diploma to remind you of that every single day.
So put your diploma somewhere where you will always see it. That way, whenever you get discouraged or afraid, you can look at that piece of paper and remind yourself, “I can do it, “ because I know each of you can achieve success. That is why you are all graduating today.
And when I say success I mean a life full of happiness, not a bank account full of money. As long as you are doing what you love and what makes you happy, even if you’re not rich, you are being successful.
So as we celebrate today—not as the last day of school, but as the start on our road to success- I want to say congratulations AEC’s class of 2012. We did it!