2019 Valedictorian and Salutatorian Speeches

Laci Darensburg, Valedictorian
 
Congratulations, Skips. We did it. This is it---the final countdown. The next time we set foot on this campus, we’ll be Ursuline alumnae. All of the hard work, dedication, endless hours of studying, and after-school Rally practices have prepared us for this moment and for all the moments to come in life. Although it hurts for me to say this, today will be one of the last days that our class will be together. Soon we'll be sailing off to college and starting our new journey away from Ursuline.  
 
Sixteen years. That’s how long I’ve been here at Ursuline Academy. It seems so unreal that after all these years, my time here at Ursuline is coming to an end. I remember as a young child, watching the Skip classes before us at Rally year after year, thinking to myself, “I want to be a part of that,” and here I am years later giving a speech at our graduation ceremony. Leaving here is very bittersweet, since I know that we are excited about embarking on a new journey as college students - but also saddened at the fact that we will be saying goodbye to the place we have come to know as our home.
 
Ursuline has taught me many lessons, one of the greatest being that there is no telling what the future may hold. For instance, when I began high school in 8th grade, I never imagined that a year later I would be a member of Ursuline’s first twirl team. And who would’ve thought that the Skips of 2019 would win Rally not once, but TWICE during our high school experience? My time here at Ursuline has further shown me that God has a plan for everyone, so we must proceed with faith and confidence that everything will work out in the end. So don’t feel discouraged when you don’t have it all figured out right away, because there is no telling what the future may hold for you---you just have to go out and find it. However, as we progress through life, there will not only be times when we succeed, but also times when we fail. In cases such as this, many people try to forget certain aspects of the past and focus only on the future. A quote from my favorite movie The Lion King says, “...the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.” What this teaches is that the past cannot be undone or erased, but it is something that can be learned from. Failure is not something you should be ashamed of but rather seen as a learning experience that pushes you to do better in the future. In order for you to move ahead in life, you must first acknowledge where you started because when you acknowledge where it all began, you’ll appreciate how far you’ve come that much more.
 
As Alex stated, the future can be scary, and with this fear may come doubt about what is to come. However, though the future is uncertain, I know through our education here at Ursuline and the sisterhood we have built among each other, we have been properly prepared to conquer any challenge life may throw at us---I mean, look as us now. We started out as shy 8th graders who were afraid to sit in the Dining Hall and became young women ready to take on the world. However, it wouldn’t be right of me to talk about how we have grown as a class without properly acknowledging the individuals who helped pave the way. Foremost, I would thank God for the many blessings He has bestowed upon us. I would also like to thank the parents for the endless love and support you have given us, the teachers for helping us to realize our fullest potential, and last but not least, Ursuline for being the wind in our sails, guiding us along our path and teaching us that there are no limits to how far we can go.
 
So as we begin the next chapter of life, let us never forget our experience here at Ursuline as it will serve as the very foundation for what is to come in our lives. No matter where we go, let us remember that it all started right here on State Street, so that when we look back on the times that we had here in high school, we can apply the lessons we have learned to our daily lives. And just know that if there is ever a time when you fall down, there will be 77 girls you can call on to help pick you right back up again. You all have been a living example of true sisterhood and I will forever be grateful for the friendships, memories, and lessons learned throughout my time here at Ursuline. Graduation may symbolize the end of our high school experience, but it is only the start of the next chapter of our lives.
 
As I come to a close, I would like to leave you with a quote from famous author J.K. Rowling: “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.”
 
Thank you Ursuline for a great 16 years and once again congratulations to the Skip Class of 2019.

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Maria Isabel Frey Ribeiro, Valedictorian
 
“Take every knock as a boost, and every stumbling block as a stepping stone.” These are the words of a song I heard on the way to school almost every day as a little girl. I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently. It relates idea that Laci spoke about so beautifully - about learning from difficulties and failure. After all, it is often mistakes that bring about change, make us stronger, and give us a greater will to succeed.
 
But I have a question - what exactly is success? Success in life is not good grades; it is not power or wealth or popularity. I think we have all heard these things before - what it is not. We have all heard tips on how to be successful and been taught from the time we were this tall to treat our neighbors as we would like to be treated. The Oxford English Dictionary defines success as: “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” Now, I think we can agree that this definition is true. But it’s unsatisfactory and vague.
 
I think the way we view success often stems from the way we view life, which can be seen as a series of battles we must fight. But I think that life is really much closer to a series of tests - no, I don’t mean exams, but rather, tests of courage, of loyalty (and, yes, of courtesy as well). Tests of love, of the ability to recognize our gifts and share them. Of our ability to find happiness and create it for others in the time that we have. Of our ability to listen - to those around us. To ourselves. To God.
 
You see, tests are different from battles in one way - even if you fail, you survive. And, as Laci said, we will fail sometimes. And it’s necessary. After all, to paraphrase the poet Robert Browning, if there weren’t things currentlybeyond our grasp, why, then no one would ever reach - and then where would we be?
 
Reaching isn’t always treacherous - or even difficult - and when it is, we will have help, as we’ve had throughout our lives. For this, thank you from the bottom of our hearts to our parents and families, who have stood by us, whose love shows in every sacrifice that has been made throughout the years and every smile (and tear) in the audience today - we hope to make you proud; to Ursuline’s faculty and administration who’ve always gone beyond what they needed to do to help us - you have touched us in such a way that our gratitude cannot be expressed; and to my classmates. It’s an honor to have shared these years with you - and as you know, this fellowship we have with each other doesn’t end tonight. We’ve come to know each other through years of lunchtime chatter and debates in class and proofreading papers, through class gatherings outside of school and the GroupMe that my phone won’t let me access but I still hear about all the time!
 
In all seriousness, we have made each other who we are. And now we go on, and the world out there will continue this work of formation, of making us who we are. And in return, we will make the world of the future. We will make it better, in big ways and in small, and that will be our success. We will be curious and maybe scared sometimes. We will come up against ignorance and injustice, but we will be strong. That will be our success.
 
We will succeed, no matter what. Trust me on this. Because success isn’t what we so often make it out to be - it’s so much less grand, and so much more beautiful.
 
So I leave you with the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson. I have carried this quote around with me since I first read it in eighth grade, and it has changed my life. It is absolutely the most satisfactory definition of any word I’ve ever seen.
 
“To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
 
Congratulations Skips of 2019! You’re well on the way to success! Thank you.

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Alexandra Sabrio, Salutatorian
 
This evening, as we all sit together as a class for the last time, I recognize the significant role Ursuline has played in each of our lives. Ursuline has been more than just a high school, more than just a location. As a class, we have made friendships that will never end, memories that will never die, and an impact that will last forever. We have grown together as a class and learned so much from each other along the way. After all, learning to be calm and collected during a high-tension rally practice or learning to simply listen to the ideas of other classmates were not small lessons.
 
Keeping in mind that we are about to walk permanently out of high school and depart for college, I dare say that there be no need for fear. Ursuline has gone above and beyond, preparing us to move forward with life in every way an educational institution can. I will grant that I have no idea how to file a tax return, (but most adults don't either so I guess that's all right). The faculty has given their time and patience to transform us from an eighth grade monstrosity into the class we are today. Whether a teacher had the same group of girls for four years or for one semester, the same amount of time and dedication went into each lesson plan. Administration has been instrumental in ensuring that our high school career was a success; after all, I can only wonder at how much courage Mrs. Joubert and Bairnsfather must have had when they undertook senior sleepover.  On behalf our class, I would like to thank all the teachers and faculty that have helped make us who we are today.
 
However, the greatest factor in our readiness for college is, of course, each other. Being with the same set of girls for roughly 885 days, or 45 months, means that we have had ample opportunities to influence each other. I can promise you that each and every one of you has taught me something. Furthermore, as I contemplate our being two-time winners of Rally and the first class to initiate activities that are sure to become traditions, such as senior sweater day, my mind is overwhelmed with the possibilities of what we will do when we enter the world. Brian Wilson once sang,
 
"Through restful waters and deep commotion
Sail on, sail on sailor"
 
And truly, despite the amazing class we are, we still have our doubts; whether it is doubts about the future or doubts about our success that plague us, we have created for each other a support system so strong that such fears will not be realized. While the prospect of moving away from our comfort zones and out into the world is terrifying, with such a tremendous group of 78 girls behind you, it need not be so. We will always have each other's backs, and, just as we have in the past, we will overcome any obstacles in our way and sail towards whatever victory may await us. Each day I have spent at Ursuline with each of you was far from a wasted one, and for this I thank you. I will again refer to the Beach Boys, because God only knows what I'd be without you. Thank you all for your attention.

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Cameron Barnes, Salutatorian
 
As Alex just addressed, today is a day of mixed emotions. While I am happy and proud of myself and my classmates as we continue on our journeys, I am incredibly saddened by the thought that our daily experiences at Ursuline have come to an end - whether that be before-school karaoke in senior lounge, a smile and a high five before a big math test, or being chased around by an apparent ghost at Senior Sleepover. Although move-in day and the exciting new changes college brings are not until a few months away, today our class is moving out of the home we built over these last few years together at Ursuline.  
 
When we first came together as a class everything and everyone was new, our sweaters were fully intact and skirts exactly two inches above the knee. We sat on red tile porch, afraid that we might take a senior’s table if we sat inside. But over the years we grew comfortable with both each other and our Ursuline family. We reached milestones as a class together, including two rally wins and being the first class that managed to have more than 10 people go the hospital during Close Up.
 
As we grew, so did our unique capabilities and characteristics as class. Yet as Alex touched on, many of us have a fear and doubt of the future. Although such fears are understandable, we possess a courage as a class that I know will lead each of you to true success. Our strong-willed nature allows us to speak up when we have a different perspective or opinion from each other, the same nature that made every collective decision into a google form survey this year. This virtue allowed many of you, before we are even handed our diplomas tonight, to grow into business owners, models, photographers, choreographers, college athletes, and so much more. I urge all of you to bring this courage away with you next year. We are no longer those timid eighth graders, when this very day seemed so far away. Next year, when those new eighth graders have only our recently added class picture in the main hallway to remember us by, know that each of you, no matter if you were on student council, varsity sports, or any honors societies, have contributed to a lasting impact at Ursuline Academy. Our class has succeeded in leaving a mark and a good one at that.
 
As we look to the future with incredibly high expectations and a little fear of what this change will bring to our lives, I want to leave all of you with an idea from author Ralph Marston: “If you so choose, even the unexpected setbacks can bring new and positive possibilities. If you so choose, you can find value and fulfillment in every circumstance.” I know this quote might be cliche, but I also understand it holds a powerful truth. I know this because an event that first began as a literal setback in my life, being held back a grade, went on to completely change my life for the better: it gave me all of you. It gave me a class in which I am so proud, a class filled with people who are unafraid of striving for their goals and already taking the next steps to achieve them. It gave me an Ursuline community I will always connect to, a community I know will always support me in whatever lies in my future. It gave me a home with 78 fellow sisters, a home that will last a lifetime after this moment is over, filled with fond memories I will soon look back on.
 
Thank you to all the parents who have supported us in our decisions. Our entire class recognizes the sacrifices all of you have made over the years. Thank you to all the faculty who believed in us even if we didn’t have faith in ourselves, shaping the knowledge we possess today, and thank you to all the administration for their help in our personal growth, especially Ms. Mortillaro and Ms. Bairnsfather, who decided we are such a great class they needed to graduate with us today. Lastly, Congratulations to all my fellow Skips; I can’t wait to see what you all accomplish!
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