MLK High graduates reflect on a tough year

Martin Luther King High School

Valedictorian Speech 2011 

by Deidgre J Green


Good evening, distinguished faculty and staff, Administration, honored guests from Foundations and the School District of Philadelphia, parents, families, friends, and last but not least, “Martin Luther King High School Graduating class of 2011.”  It is indeed an honor to stand here before you as the 35th Valedictorian of Martin Luther King High school.

Before I start, I would like to recognize and thank GOD for affording me this wonderful opportunity to be the valedictorian of the class of 2011. I would like to thank my family for their support throughout my entire life, especially my mother who has been the backbone of my success. I would like to acknowledge the staff members of Martin Luther King who have stayed with us throughout the hard times of the school change. I want to thank them for guiding us throughout the confusion. I know this year was hard for both teachers and students I want to acknowledge how lucky we are to have shared our high school experience. So as we go on to new adventures let us not forget what we have gained from our time here.

Class of 2011, let’s take a walk down memory lane and see if you can remember all the new faces you saw and all the students you became friends with. Now look around in this auditorium at our graduating class. You can clearly see that many of the students who started with us in our freshman year are not present with us today. Some may have dropped out or transferred, some passed away, some failed one class and couldn’t walk with us, but you, me, we are still here. We survived!

We survived four long, exhausting but worthwhile years of high school. You may have been wondering, “how did I get this far?” But I know it was the drive and motivation to be something greater that the norm. You dared to stand out. You dared to be different. And throughout these years, that helped you move forward. So as we sit here today sharing your accomplishments with your families, and friends, I congratulate you all for making it through high school.

Now I dare you, I dare you to accomplish something even greater than a high school diploma because this is not the end. This is only the beginning, the beginning of great things.  So I say to you, enjoy his day, go out and celebrate your accomplishments, but think about tomorrow.

Tomorrow is a new day, and life will be tapping you on the shoulder saying, “It’s time to grow up.”

Yes grow up!  Some of you will be off to college in less than two months, some may be joining the army, or some may be even going into the workforce, but you will be standing in the face of hard work. You will now be looked upon as an adult and you will have to take full responsibilities for your actions. You will be faced with decisions that can ultimately change your life, but let your conscience be your guide.

I am not standing here telling you that success will be waiting for you once you place your tassel on the other side of your graduation hat. I am here to make sure you are aware of what’s ahead of you, hard work. Do not be fooled by the glamour on TV. Genuine success calls for discipline and hard work.

While some of you will be bored out of your minds after today, others will be occupied with work and school. But think about what are you going to do for the rest of your life: Chill on the block with your boys? Party until you reached your limit? What is it that you will devote your time to? Are you going to waist the rest of your life living by luck? Certainly Not!

You need to start working for things that you want, build up the confidence to land that dream job, and attain that college degree and earn that promotion.  Let’s work for it. As John said in his speech, the only place that success comes before work is in the dictionary. We have made it this far, so lets take this achievement and put it in our pockets and move forward for the next one. Let’s not rest on our laurels, but continue on to strive towards bigger and better achievements.

(Dr. Suess)

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened”


Editor’s note: Martin Luther King High School, on the cusp of East Germantown and West Oak Lane, has been managed through a partnership between the non-profit educational company Foundations and the Philadelphia School District for years. But that relationship has not resulted in strong academic gains.

Earlier this year a group of advisors and the School Reform Commission voted to replace Foundations with a new management company, Mosaica, and turn the school into a charter school. The vote was part of the district’s program for turning around low performing schools. But intervention after that vote by state Rep. Dwight Evans (D. Phila) and SRC Chair Robert Archie, who both have long standing ties to Foundations, effectively reversed that decision and resulted in Mosaica bowing out of the process. In the controversy that resulted, Foundations also withdrew from the process and MLK will be run by the school district for at least the next year.

The development represents a breakdown of the school district’s Renaissance process for low performing schools. See how NewsWorks and the Philadelphia Public School Notebook broke these stories in the related links to the right.

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