Viewpoint: The Value of Opportunity

(The following speech was delivered by a graduating senior at the Palisades High School commencement ceremony on June 8.)

By Dessery Alvarez
Special to the Palisades News

Since kindergarten, 5 a.m. has been my nemesis. Although my alarm clock has changed from a SpongeBob clock to my cellphone, my wake-up time has not.

Like for many of you, 5 a.m. is the time to wake up for school. I’ve had to endure this because of my grandmother. She knew that great schools were where the nice neighborhoods were: the kind of neighborhoods where she was a housekeeper. She has made many sacrifices for her family, like leaving her children in El Salvador for a period of time and taking any job to provide for them, and she continues to do the same for me.

Credit: Sue Pascoe
Credit: Sue Pascoe

Here at Pali, I have heard many of you share similar stories of overcoming obstacles, all in the name of seeking a better education for a better future. I’ve heard of families escaping Iran, single-parents taking two jobs, young men and women overcoming the loss of a family member, students enduring cafeteria food as it may be the only meal they get during the day.

However, like my grandmother and mother have shown me, we have learned that often the most rewarding experiences in life don’t come without sacrifice. These sacrifices represent a belief in us, a love and support for us. And that is what has led us to Pali.

We are all here because we have people who supported us going to a school miles and miles away or who support us attending a

neighborhood school that reflects diversity of the great city of Los Angeles. We’ve chosen to go to a school like Pali because of the many opportunities it has to offer—opportunities many of us wouldn’t have if we went to a school in our own neighborhoods.

Pali has provided programs that show the diverse student body that the school wants all of us here by creating programs, clubs and activities that make all of us feel heard and represented. It feels great to know that Pali and all of the teachers and staff have made conquering those symbolic 5 a.m. wake-ups we have all encountered worth it.

These diplomas we will soon receive will be our tardy passes and excuse us from having to set that 5 a.m. alarm. But we must not view them simply as fancy pieces of paper. Let these diplomas be a symbol of overcoming the obstacles in our lives.

And remember, those countless photos we will soon be posing for with our diploma from Palisades Charter High School in hand, will bring such joy to all of those people who have made sacrifices in our lives for the sake of education.

Gracias a mis padres y a todos por creer en nosotros. Thank you all for believing in us. And let these diplomas encourage us to work together so no longer does any child have to wake up at 5 a.m. to get a good education.

There will be plenty of other times where we will have challenges in our lives, but let these Pali diplomas always remind us that we can handle any obstacle, no matter how early our alarms go off.

(Editor’s note: Dessery Alvarez plans to attend CSUN.)

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