SHC bid farewell to 284 graduates on Saturday, May 21 at The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption. In a beautiful ceremony, the Class of 2016 Valedictorian and Salutatorian addressed their fellow classmates with inspiring words. The speeches are reproduced here for your enjoyment!
Ekaterina Lavroushina Clark ’16, Valedictorian
Welcome administration, faculty, family, friends, members of the Board of Regents, honored guests and fellow graduates.
Congratulations … we made it!
We’ve made it through the drama, the tests, the projects and the stress of SATs and college applications. Four years ago we walked through the doors of SHC “entering to learn” and now we’re standing at the precipice of “leaving to serve.” But what does “leave to serve” really mean? You, my classmates, taught me the answer to this question. Let me tell you how.
I began high school in quite an unusual way: on crutches. The summer before freshman year I fractured my fibula dancing and was not able to walk for the entire first semester. Although my situation was not at all as dire as those we have encountered over our four years of service, it was for me. For one of the first time in my life I was put in the position of needing help with even the simplest of tasks … needing to have my leg fixed so I could get back to doing what I love.
You all eagerly stepped in, but not in the way I expected. You made me realize that help and fix were not the right words. Whether it was simply opening the door for me or carrying my backpack up the hill (getting a free elevator ride as a token of my gratitude), you taught me what it meant to be a part of a community that serves.
With that in mind, I found meaning in my experience through the words of Rachel Remen, Professor of Medicine at U.C.S.F., who wrote: “When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. [But] When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping create a distance between people, but we cannot serve at a distance. We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected.”
Each year we engaged in meaningful projects working to expand this web of interconnectivity between us to the larger community. We did not stand at a distance, we engaged.
Lasallian Vincentian Youth provided us with countless opportunities for working together within the greater San Francisco community. I fondly remember conversing with a woman at the clothing drive, who shared her life story with me, her successes as well as her failures. Her vulnerability opened my eyes and gave me layer of awareness that was as much as a service to me, as our clothing was a service to her. Through the Ven a Ver program we have come to understand more about the needs of marginalized communities. From the city we experience everyday to countries abroad, such as Chile, we not only shared in the tribulations of those we served, we also discovered parts of ourselves. After all, we are no different than those around us, we are only distinguishable by our circumstances.
From serving food at St. Anthony’s Foundation in our sophomore year, to making loans to entrepreneurs across the globe through Kiva our senior year, we lived out the maxim that our service strengthened us, as well as others. From the perspective of service, we are all connected: All suffering is like our suffering and all joy is like our joy.
We may not have thought of it as service but over the years our class has served each over by sharing each other’s joy and suffering. We learned, played and grew together. We did not sit in empty classrooms, we were surrounded by our enthusiastic and engaged classmates. We didn’t play football, run track or swim alone; we were surrounded by our teammates. Our publications were produced by creative staff. We were not playing solos on the stage or reading monologues alone; we were part of the cast, choir, band or orchestra.
Our rigorous classes, co-curricular activities, retreats, and Walkathons all brought us together as a family. We served each other by sharing our joy.
In addition, the struggles of our community brought us together as agents for social change. Teach acceptance became our rallying cry, as we demonstrated the support we had for our teachers, who taught us never to forget to fight for love and justice for everyone in our community. We served each other by sharing our suffering.
Our shared joys and sufferings have molded us into talented individuals but with this comes the expectation that we will be problem solvers … that we will fix the inequalities of the world and that we will help people who can’t help themselves.
There is much to fix and help in our complicated world. Out of the 7.2 billion people in the world, 1 billion live in extreme poverty. Four hundred million of them lack access to essential health services and often do not have the clean water and food they need. Behind these statistics are real people—people who share our joys and sufferings simply because of our shared humanity … people who require not help and not a fix, but SERVICE.
Four years ago we walked through the doors of SHC “entering to learn” and now we’re standing at the precipice of “leaving to serve.” We have made an impact on the SHC community, now it is time to make a difference in the world. We cannot stand at a distance, we need to engage. SHC has prepared us.
Let us open the door to the future. It is right here and we, dear graduates of the Class of 2016, are ready.
Congratulations and good luck! Thank you.
Hugh Mac Neil ’16, Salutatorian
Administration, faculty, family, honored guests, members of the Board of Regents, friends and classmates, good morning and welcome to the graduation of Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory Class of 2016.
What ties the SHC community together? Is is that we all cheer during the Bruce-Mahoney? Is it that we all wear polos shirts and khakis? Or is it our shared hatred of green days? While these are all things students have in common, they aren’t at the heart of this community. Sure, we can all agree that the cookies were the best during our freshman year or that we sneak into the elevator when teachers aren’t looking. But, what really brings us all together, and what will ultimately keep us all connected, is the SHC motto: Enter to Learn, Leave to Serve.
We’re about to embark on the next step of our lives. Yes, this sounds cliche, but it’s true. What we do with the next four years will shape what our futures look like, who our friends are, and what jobs we have. And with this often comes a feeling of uncertainty. What am I going to major in? What are my professors going to be like? What is my life going to look like in college? And to be completely honest, I don’t have the answers. I’m in the same boat as all of you: excited, nervous, maybe even a little scared. But deep inside I know that we’re all ready to make that step.
I remember that during my junior year, my English teacher said something I will never forget: “Instead of choosing what you want to be when you’re an adult, choose a problem in the world that you want to solve.” This completely changed my perspective of what my future would look like after SHC. I had originally pictured myself going to college, and somewhere along the line I would have an epiphany to become a lawyer or a pediatrician. I already knew that I wanted to create spaces where people felt accepted and safe. So instead of worrying about how that would translate into a career, I worked towards solving this issue. But I wasn’t alone in my dreams of solving world problems. People in my class started talked about helping to create positive relationships between countries, about pushing for gender equality, and working towards solving California’s water shortage.
We all have dreams. Crazy, amazing, beautiful, and yes, sometimes impossible dreams. But the beauty of dreams is that they can change. So, as we look forward to next year of meeting new roommates, attending orientations, or just spending time around campus, I encourage you all to dream. And I don’t just mean taking a nap, though I will admit, naps are also very important. I’m talking about your aspirations. What problem do you want to solve in the world? Dream of becoming a teacher engaging students, dream of creating housing for homeless youth, dream of working in a lab researching a cure for a disease.
Working towards those dreams is what makes the SHC community so unique. We aren’t a passive group waiting for someone to take action. We recognize the importance of putting words into actions. That is what makes each and every one of us a part of the Sacred Heart Cathedral community. Whether it’s fellow classmates leading Kairos or helping to run our Kiva Carnival, our class has already begun to serve others. We aren’t waiting until we finish college, or land our first job, or rent our first apartment, to help serve those in need. We are the future engineers, creative writers, mothers, fathers, friends and mentors who will rise to the challenge of creating a better world for both ourselves and future generations.
So keep your head in the clouds. Dream about your life, about your friends, about the problems you want to solve, and then work towards them. Because this is how we will Leave to Serve. By fulfilling our aspirations, we will not only serve the ones we care about, but we will set an example for others to follow. So thank you to all those who have let me dream, and to the countless others who have helped make those dreams become a reality. And to the class of 2016, thank you, and good luck to you all.