“Make a Difference For Yourself and Someone Else”. That is what our former principal, James A. Brown once said. That is what we have always been taught. That is what we, the students of GCMS, the class of 2021, have been learning since day one. To stand up for what is right, to help others, to bring out the best in each other, and to ultimately, make a difference. Now, as our time at Grover Cleveland Middle School is closing, we take this opportunity to look back on our previous years of learning and growing. Taking a moment to smile down at the people who we once were, and now, after three years, where we are today. We have come to ask ourselves, “Have I really made a difference for myself and someone else?”
When I first entered Grover Cleveland Middle School, I was a shy, timid, and frightened girl. I had no idea what was going to happen to me, or about the ups and downs, twists and turns that lay ahead. I was petrified to see what would go on next. “What if I don’t make friends?” “What if no one likes me?” “What if they think I’m weird?” “What if- they judge me, before I can even explain myself?” These were the thoughts that bombarded my head, clustering and expanding quicker than I could even think them up. As time went on, I did nothing to help myself. I sat alone, I ate alone, I walked alone, facing what I thought was the fact that I was not going to meet anyone special, and that they might remember me, but only for what I looked like. I felt like we were all pieces in a big puzzle set, while everyone was joining together and creating beautiful pictures, I was a piece pushed to the side, who no one could bother to connect with. However, one day, I decided to try out for the school musical. I have always had a spark of passion for all things music, and I had already done a few other plays in my lifetime. Once auditions started, I met the people who I would now call my closest friends. As we were learning the choreography for one of the dance auditions, I, as usual, was sitting at a lunch table, alone. I looked over, and saw a small group of girls talking and laughing beside me. As I watched from afar, I suddenly took a look at myself as well. Why wasn’t I in a friend group like that? No one is stopping me, no one is holding me back from going up to them and sitting down except myself. Why haven’t I done that? Why am I so afraid? So that is what I did. I took a chance, I stood up, walked over to their table, sat down, and made a difference for myself. Thus, starting that first half of making a difference.
After that first step of making a difference for myself, I was finally pushed into the start of me growing. I can remember it so clearly after that, the endless practices, the giggling backstage, hanging in the halls while another scene was going on. I had finally found people who I could connect with, people who understood me. People who not only wanted to meet during rehearsals, but want to see me again after rehearsals. Before the global pandemic started, I had auditioned to be in the new musical, Frozen. In sixth grade, the play was The Wizard of Oz, and although I auditioned for Dorothy and got a munchkin, the next year… I got Elsa. Moving from a munchkin, to Elsa was such a symbolic representation of my growth. It proved how I had changed and learned, from a timid, small, and scared little munchkin, to Elsa, the Snow Queen. As I basked in my success, I had also realized something. That I might have made a difference for myself, but have I made a difference for someone else? A few months later, one of my best friends, Melia texted me, asking me if I had wanted to join her in making a film for the Count Basie Film Festival. I excitedly agreed, and we decided to film a documentary on Ichthyosis en Confetti, the skin condition that I have. After we had submitted it, we had won for Best Documentary. This had greatly impacted us, for a few weeks later, we had been on quite a few news channels. Not only had we won other awards and been on the news, but we made a difference for others. Through the film, I showed people around the world that it is okay to be who you are. There are going to be people everywhere you go who are going to tell you otherwise, but it is your decision to let it affect you. To be truthful, I never believed in quotes like these, and I have often thought that they were cliche and corny. Maybe they still are, but, nevertheless, they are true. We have control over ourselves, and ourselves only. With our actions, we can choose whether we want to sit back and watch our lives pass us by, or change and evolve. I made a decision that I wanted to evolve and that is exactly what I did. It all started with helping myself and then I was able to make a difference for those around me.
Finally, I would like to thank my teachers for educating me throughout my time here at Grover Cleveland Middle School. I would like to thank the other staff members who were always so kind and caring with any problems I faced. Thank you to Miss. Riggitano for helping me with this speech, and also being one of the most amazing Language Arts teachers I’ve ever had. I would like to thank Mr. Bertollo, who encouraged, taught, and supported me ever since he has been here. I have only known him for a year, but it has greatly impacted my life. I would like to thank my classmates for making me laugh and enjoy every second of the time I spent with you. I would like to thank the kind souls who would greet me, chat with me, and offer to be my partner in my times of desperation. And lastly, I would like my friends and family for always being there for me. They have pushed me to grow and be myself, and to come out of my shell. My friends have made me laugh, cry and smile, making me feel like a normal girl. And lastly, thank you Mr. Brown, for showing me how to “Make a Difference For Myself and Someone Else.”
Have a great rest of your day!