Val Cornejo, Cascade High School
Good afternoon graduates, teachers, and families. My name is Val Cornejo, and I personally wasn’t here very long, but a part of me wishes I had been, to be a part of seeing the growth in this class. I came here my junior year and I was overwhelmed by the diversity within this class. Coming here mid-way through high school came with reservations and a range of mixed emotions. In some respects, I was happy to start fresh, and I was excited to experience something new. On the other hand, I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t know what to expect and didn’t think I’d really meet people since everyone was already invested in their circles of friends. So I eased my way into the Cascade environment. I had mixed feelings about that approach too. I was comfortable, but I felt like I was always missing out. I was more of an outsider, not truly a part of the class yet and not especially close to anyone, so I got to see the members of this class for who they were as individuals, beyond classroom walls, instead of who they’re reputations said they were.
Coming last year, I figured I wasn’t going to be here too long, so it wasn’t worth making the effort to connect and reach out. Despite this, I still went to class, so I still talked to people here and there, and though I wasn’t totally willing yet, I was constantly surprised, with each deeper encounter with everyone I got to know. This class reached out and they made the effort and though it took a couple months for me to start to reciprocate, I’m grateful for the people that were open because it made me realize that I was guilty of judging my new situation too soon. This is a class full of artists, scholars, leaders, athletes, musicians, performers, innovators, and tech-wizards. This is a class full of compassion, culture and adversity and I’ve learned that time and time again with every person I’ve come to know sitting here today. You are a class full of passion, in so many different capacities, and I have admired learning about different passions in accordance to each of your personal interests. I have come to love getting to know this class and your commitments to fostering your ideas. Thank you for sharing these talents with the rest of us, it has only added to the beauty in the diversity of our class identity.
So from my experience of coming mid-way through your Cascade journey, I take away the important lesson we’ve all heard before, but since we’re splitting up and going in countless different directions, this is a fitting piece of advice: Go into every new experience in life with an open mind. Be bold in your transition. If you’re up for it, be the one to reach out and take initiative. You’ll never regret being open. I promise you that. That’s not to say it will always go well, but you’ll never truly regret it. From the bottom of my heart, I know if it weren’t for the people that took initiative those first couple weeks of junior year, I’m not sure I’d be standing here and sharing my testimony this evening. It changed a lot for me, so keep that in mind as you prepare to transition into the next stage of your life, whatever that may be.
One thing that every single graduate can relate to today is that something is going to be different for us. Our lives will change in one way or another in the coming months. Something new is on the horizon for all of us, and that can be terrifying. It can be nerve-wrecking to leave something you know, but if we never move forward to the next chapter, and truly commit to experiencing everything the new stage of life has to offer, we will never see all the things we’re capable of.
Too often in this world, we see people who never moved on to something new and we see that their self-perception is can be much more limited because they never pushed their boundaries to see what else they could accomplish. It’s rooted in the fear that if you leave what you know, you might regret it later on. That was me at the start of last year; I let myself get too comfortable. Had I not taken the chance for something truly memorable in a new school, I would have missed out on so much. If you’re too comfortable, something needs to change. The change is scary, but it truly is an opportunity, so seize it.
We will all continue to face challenges. That’s just life. I just ask that you face these challenges with an open mind, an open heart and with the confidence in yourself that you can do it, because you can. We’ve made it this far, and maybe you only slipped by, so I challenge everyone here, from this point forward to give it their all with whatever comes next. Slipping by doesn’t change the world, and you are all so capable of such incredible things. I’ve seen it from the first time I walked through the halls. I have so much hope for us, and I can’t wait to hear about everyone’s accomplishments as time continues to pass. So give it your all, and when you’ve done that, give it some more.
But for now, we graduate from Cascade, and that’s exciting, and worth a celebration. So congratulations to you all, we did it! I may not have started this journey with you all, but I’m glad to be finishing alongside you. I encourage you to enjoy today and this time, and cherish every moment. You earned this, and I couldn’t be prouder to be receiving my diploma with you. Thank you for welcoming me to the Cascade family and thank you for bringing life to the school. So have fun today, and congratulations, Bruins.