Spain Park High School celebrated its class of 2022 with a graduation ceremony at Samford University’s Pete Hanna Center on Friday evening.
And while it was a night to say goodbye to the 372 graduates, two of the student speakers spoke at length about how good their classmates are at saying hello and making newcomers feel welcome.
Lydia Faris, who was chosen by her classmates to speak on behalf of the 17 valedictorians of 2022, spoke about what it was like to emigrate as a refugee from Syria in 2012. She spoke about leaving her jasmine flower garden in Syria and move to Hoover, Alabama.
“Leaving the house was scary. The change was scary,” she said.
She’s not sure why her family landed in Alabama as their destination, but knows there’s a reason they stayed.
“I’ve seen Spain Park support its students regardless of differences, regardless of my differences,” she said. “We all walk into the same building every morning. We all learn to love, be kind, and support each other.
Faris noted that there are people in the Pete Hanna Center audience from all over the world who speak different languages and celebrate different cultures.
“The beauty of Spain Park lies in its diversity,” she said. “Here, 21 languages are spoken and 57 countries are represented. It’s amazing how we all came together and celebrated those differences.
Faris said she was proud to call herself a student at Spain Park.
“I didn’t once feel judged as a Syrian refugee,” she said. “I was welcomed with open arms by my Spain Park family.”
Although leaving Syria was a huge change, Faris noted that she and her classmates were about to experience another big and scary change and said the change was good and needed.
“Change allows us to grow, giving us a chance to enrich our lives with insights that would otherwise be intangible,” she said. “Use change as a tool to reflect on past lessons while fearlessly charting your current path. Don’t be afraid of change. In fact, celebrate discomfort. …As we embrace new changes in our lives, never forget where you come from and always look for the jasmine flowers the world has to offer.
“I FELT CARE”
Selma Maric, who served as president of the Spain Park Student Government Association this year, spoke about her move from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Hoover in 2015.
“I arrived in the middle of the school year and I didn’t know anyone. I was horrified at the thought of starting college and bitter at the thought of moving across the country,” she said. “Being nervous and shy myself at the time, I was afraid to approach anyone, but on the first day so many of you came to see me. I was invited to m sat with different people at lunch, and people made sure I felt welcome.
Everyone wanted to know about Salt Lake City and Bosnia and Herzegovina, where her parents were born, she said.
“I felt taken care of,” Maric said. “I was so scared of getting lost in the crowds when I moved here, but you guys went out of your way to come see me, say hello and ask how I was. You listened to my story and you made my day a little sweeter.
As she and her classmates now leave Spain Park, she encouraged them to start over. “Be ready to say hello to new people and listen to your new friends’ stories,” she said.
PERSEVERANCE AND DETERMINATION
Senior class president Elle Taylor said it was crazy to think that just four years ago they were the “top dogs” at Berry Middle School, eager to become high schoolers.
“I expected high school to be like the movie ‘High School Musical,'” she said. Classes.”
The last four years of pep rallies, proms, homecoming activities, “dreaded semester exams” and even the COVID-19 pandemic have helped them become who they are today. , Taylor said.
They will never forget the impact of the “global pandemic, friendships lost, friendships gained, school dances missed, family time and championships won,” she said. “The legacy this Spain Park class has left is one of perseverance, adaptation and hard work, and while we have achieved so much in the past four years, there is so much more to come.”
Taylor quoted Hebrews 12:1 from the Bible, encouraging his classmates to let go of the wounds that pierced them and the sins that easily tangled them so they could run the marathon of life with passion and determination.
“We have all been given different passions and gifts from God so that we can be a light in this dark world and serve those around us,” Taylor said. “As you begin this new chapter in your life, I encourage you to remember the people who made you the person you are today and to thank them for the impact they have had on your life. “
GIVE UP OR FIGHT?
William Gasser, the student with the highest GPA in the class of 2022 from Spain Park, recalled one night he stayed up until 3 a.m. doing his physics homework. The reason he sacrificed his sleep and balanced academics with varsity sports and lots of extracurricular activities was because of a statement a friend made in his sophomore year when they were choosing classes and debating whether to complete all Advanced Placement courses to try for the highest GPA. in the classroom, he said.
His friend told him he couldn’t do it, he said.
“The most crucial lesson I learned at Spain Park is not to let others dictate your success,” he said. ” We’re gonna succed. Spain Park has provided us with all the resources we need to strive for excellence, and I am convinced that each of us graduates has the potential to change the world.
Each of them will face opposition in the world, whether from a boss, adversary or even a friend who questions their ability to succeed, he said. declared.
“When the world tempts you to give up on your dreams and pronounces you incapable, will you give in or fight?” He asked.
Tracy Prater, university and Spain Park careers advisor, noted that the Spain Park class of 2022 received a collective offer of $22.9 million in scholarship offers and accepted $9 million in those scholarships. Sixty-one percent of graduates were offered scholarships, and 20 percent of them achieved a GPA of 4.0 or higher, he said.
The Spain Park Class of 2022 has been offered admission to 154 colleges in 36 states and four countries, including some of the most elite schools in the country, Prater said.
Three members of the class were National Merit Commended students, while two were National Merit finalists and one was named a National Merit Scholar, Prater said. The class also has a US presidential scholarship candidate, he said.
Spain Park manager Larry Giangrosso told the graduates that people would no longer let them rely on their parents or other people to represent them. “It will be up to you to make decisions and live with the results of those choices,” he said.
Decisions about things like where to live and work and who to marry will be solely on their shoulders, Giangrosso said.
“The tasks ahead of you are formidable. The tasks ahead of you will be difficult and sometimes insurmountable, but you who sit before us tonight will accomplish these tasks,” the Principal said. “I am confident that you will be called the next greatest generation.”