LHS Valedictorian Graduation Speech
All day yesterday, I swore up and down that I wouldn’t cry or become emotional during my
speech. But here I am on the verge of tears simply because I cannot help but to be
overwhelmed by how truly amazing God is. Every time I begin to believe that God has
completely blown my mind, He proceeds to do exceedingly and above all things that I could
have ever asked for or even begun to imagine.
Although the roads to get to this very moment have been nothing short of rough for most of us, there is nothing like God’s promise and fulfillment of peace for remaining faithful along the journey. Tonight, I am not up here to preach; however, I must acknowledge and testify that I wouldn’t be standing where I am today if it wasn’t for the grace and mercy of the God I serve. At this moment, I believe that God and all of our loved ones who sadly weren’t able to be with us tonight are smiling down and saying, “Well done.”
While I am on the ‘thank you train,’ I’d like to properly give thanks to the village that has helped raise me to be the person that I am today. I won’t begin to call names, because then we’d be here all night, but to every teacher that has dedicated their hearts to their classroom and to every family friend and community member that has encouraged, supported, and kept a
watchful eye out for me (because Lord knows that I can’t go anywhere between Lockhart and
Timbuktu without someone knowing me or my parents) I’d like to thank each of you. Y’all have shown me that there is truly nothing like the love and support of a small town!
Now can the Coleman, Manning, and Lewis crowd make a little bit of noise? Thank you all for always going out of your way to show me love. Lastly, to my dear parents, thank you for putting up with me for an award-winning amount of time (not that y’all really had any other choice). Mom, Dad, if you all hear nothing else, I want y’all to know that I love you both beyond words, and every sacrifice you all have made for myself and our family is more than appreciated.
Honestly, preparing to give this speech gave me more anxiety than I thought it ever would have.
I was constantly questioning… Well, what do my peers expect me to say or what does the
community expect from a valedictorian? After 18 years of life, I have finally come to the
realization that chasing and trying to fulfill the expectations of others will always be the thief of
enjoying the precious moments in life. So, in true Jamayla fashion, I decided to rewrite my
speech at 1 a.m., but this time I decided to shake off the weights of expectation and do
something that would make the younger version of myself absolutely elated. I am going to be
completely honest with myself. Class of 2023, as we turn the page on one chapter of our lives,
I figured that it is only fitting that I use this time and platform to tell you all a little bit about myself and attempt to leave everyone in the crowd with at least one message that will aid them as they embark on their next chapter. I promise there is meaning within this story, so bear with me and enjoy.
For those of you who do not personally know me, I have always naturally been overly independent, and if you were to ask my family, a little hard-headed. Exhibit A: At the very, and I mean VERY grown age of five, I was at the pool with my parents and two older siblings. Now most of you are probably thinking, ‘Awe, y’all were having some nice family time.’ WRONG!
As my siblings used the skills that their swim instructors had taught them to dive, swim, and
jump into the deepest parts of the pool, I didn’t know how to swim. So, I was restricted to the
kiddy section. To make matters worse, my parents had strapped me into a hideous pair of bright pink floaties and huge goggles. Now, let me pause and really paint the scene for you all: I was sitting in all of two feet of water with enough flotation devices and gear to support an entire island.
Well, that very day, my grown 5-year-old self decided that I no longer wanted the assistance
of the bright pink balloons attached to my shoulders, because in my young mind they served
no purpose other than keeping me from hanging out with the cool older kids and made me look like a dork.
Throwing both caution and the floaties to the wind, I gracefully snuck to the six-foot section of
the pool and smoothly jumped in. As you can imagine, I quickly learned that those
useless pink balloons might have been there to keep me from well, I don’t
While I thought that I had successfully snuck to the deeper end of the pool, little did I know my
father had been trailing me the entire time. Knowing that if he had stopped me from attempting my mission, I would have become upset and even more determined — my dad allowed me to first struggle before coming to my rescue.
After retrieving me from my demise, my dad didn’t scold me for risking my life. Instead, he
commended my bravery and promised to take me to our local pool every day after work until I
could teach myself how to swim.
Introducing lesson number one: Whether it is your friends or family, always seek to be
surrounded by individuals who will save you when you’ve taken a leap with a little bit too much
faith and who will genuinely support you with patience as you strive to reach your goals. As we
each step out into the adult world, we are going to come in contact with so many new exciting
people and experiences. However, I caution you to choose your surroundings wisely because
not everyone will truly have your best interest in mind. Tyler Perry perfectly once said, “There are people who come in your life like boosters for a rocket.” If you have ever watched a rocket go into space, it loses its booster once it reaches a certain altitude. Not everyone will be equipped to travel with you to your next height and that is okay. Encourage them to reach for more, but you must never be afraid to remove yourself from people and situations that actively weigh you down instead of encouraging you to test new limits.
Lesson number two: Every success story has two things in common. One, they all start with
someone who has a crazy amount of ambition. Two, there will undoubtedly be failure along the
way. Despite popular belief, failure is something to be embraced and not something to be
ashamed of. For if we never experience failure, we will never truly appreciate the feeling of
success. Classmates, I encourage each of you to take every opportunity to try new things, even if it may scare you, because hey, you might learn that you are capable of doing something amazing!
While I can admit that I am still not the world’s best swimmer, I can for dang sure save myself if
needed. Class of 2023, life will undoubtedly lead each of us into some rough waters. I cannot
stress how important it is to take care of yourself physically but most importantly mentally. It is
equally important to build a life raft composed of amazing friends, family, and faith that will keep you afloat when life becomes a little too much to conquer on your own!
Before I talk y’all’s ears off, I have to leave you all with one more thing. Then, I promise to take
my seat. Four years ago, I was presented with news that I was in the position of possibly
graduating as the valedictorian of my very talented class. Quickly, the natural competitor within me locked in and I decided that I wanted to earn this title. So, I wrote down my vision and laid it out plainly before the Lord. Through every sleepless night, through every high and every low point, God provided me with the resources and tenacity I needed to rightfully claim the title of Lockhart High School’s first-ever Black valedictorian. This moment is so much bigger than myself. I desire for this moment to serve as representation and encouragement to the younger generations that you, yes you, are capable of achieving far more than what society and stereotypes may try to limit you to. No matter your background, financial status, gender, or race, hear and believe me when I say that you were born to win.
Class of 2023, it’s been real.