Student Voices: 2015 Graduate Speaker Jack Cordova-McCarthy

California Connections Academy @ Ripon

teen graduate speaking at podium

Hello and welcome to my fellow students, teachers, counselors, parents, and alumni. I am honored to speak on behalf of the class of 2015 to you all today.

I would like to welcome everyone this moment, our moment, as we stand on a precipice filled with pride and trepidation. Here we eagerly wait, the class of 2015, ready to come out and startle the world once the curtain rises. After four years of work and preparation, we are ready for the opening of our promising, adult lifetimes ahead of us.

Like an actor getting up on stage, I feel excited for the show of my life to start—yet, also just a little bit nervous.

In Hamlet, Shakespeare stated, “We know what we are, but we know not what we may be.”

We know we have worked hard for these past four years to make it where we are today. We do not know what roles we may go on to play in life, but we do know we have gained a solid education that prepared us to shine in college, the workforce, and beyond. This is our time to offer new ideas and new energy to the challenges we face.

Even though it is we graduates who take the spotlight today, countless individuals worked backstage to help us shine. To start, we would like to thank our teachers and counselors—our directors. You teachers provided a personalized pathway to learning. You gave us feedback, which helped fine-tune our work. You displayed an incredible amount of tolerance and understanding. You helped us work around family vacations, sporting trips, community service projects, and more, allowing us to do all the things we loved while keeping on pace with our academic work. You gave us the freedom to work ahead, and allowed us to learn from our mistakes when we fell behind. You let us know help was only a phone call away.

Counselors, you worked tirelessly to make sure we were on track to graduate. From start to finish, you were there for us. Without you, some of us may not be graduating today.

My first week at Connections Academy, I was struggling just to figure out Connexus. Tasks like submitting assignments, checking off lessons, and finding live lesson rooms were a mystery to me. I called my English teacher and, with her help, in the span of a few minutes I was navigating Connexus without any trace of a problem. In that same first week, I remember getting a phone call from my math teacher. She offered to walk me through a homework problem I missed, asking, “Is now a good time?”

I was continuously shocked at the personal care and support I received from my counselors and teachers here at Connections Academy.

Of course, none of us could have ever taken that first step without our families and learning coaches. You serve both as our producers and our biggest fans. You celebrated our happiest, life moments and gave us the emotional strength to overcome any drama or tragedy that might have befallen us. Beyond marking our lessons and attendance, you led us through childhood. You taught us how to walk with integrity. You raised us and shaped us into fine adults. None of us could have made it here without you.

My family suffered a terrible loss as the school year was just beginning when my father passed.

One thing I remember my father telling me again and again was “Now is our time.” He taught by example, doing his best to fill each moment with hope, laughter, and love. He lived a remarkable life.

He taught me to never waste a moment. Each moment we share with another person is precious. I can stand and talk about all the great things we can accomplish, but it only makes a difference when we do those things. We can sit here, wondering what the unpredictable future may bring, or we can focus on making the most out of being with those around us.

Instead of dwelling upon the future years, I would like to ask the class of 2015 to live in each moment. If we strive to make now the best moment it can be, if we make each moment a joyful experience worth remembering…imagine what kind of life we can look back on.

I ask you to start today. You can change your life with small steps. Sometime today, simply stop and take one moment, however short. Maybe you’ll be throwing your cap in the air, or laughing and taking pictures with your family, or just walking to the bathroom—just stop and make that moment the best it can be. Slowly make it a habit, practicing it every day, for as many moments as you can. Know that now is our time.

We began high school as children, but we are leaving as adults. That distant, far-off future day is today. We have watched the generations before us dance through life, eager to step into their shoes. We have followed the success of modern and historical figures, plotting to follow how they made the most out of their lives.

Now is our time. We are the students of the future. Ready or not, the overture is beginning for our first show.

We all have the power to add to our world in a unique way, and the unquenchable drive, passion, desire to succeed. Now we turn the page on the past, and pick up our pens to write a script for the future.

I urge you to see graduation not as an ending, but as the beginning. A new act is about to begin, and we are playing principle roles. Each graduate has received a gargantuan amount of support, and now we are ready to give back to society. Although it seems a little bit scary, and although we know that life comes with no guarantees, we can count on the strength our families, friends, and mentors instilled in us. We can remember the moments when we felt courageous, strong, and loved, and use those feelings to propel us forward. Now is our time. We are ready.

Congratulations to the class of 2015. Now is our time.