[I’m delighted to post student leader and activist Alyssa Green’s Senior Speech, delivered at Lavender Graduation in April. My thanks to Alyssa for sharing this amazing speech. Best wishes, Alyssa, for a happy and successful life “after Brandeis”! Note: Names of Alyssa’s peers appear with permission. — Thomas A. King]
An introduction from Alyssa:
This speech was constructed for the wonderful people and experiences I had throughout my time at Brandeis, as well as the events which led up to my arrival there. As an activist, I found many outlets for my passion and creativity, and even more people to help me grow into the person I am today. Brandeis was a difficult time; obstacles seemed to present themselves at every opportunity. Even still, I graduated as a proud scholar, survivor, woman of color, and queer person. All of my identities, although oppressed in some way or another, strengthened me and gave me direction.
Senior Speech, Lavender Graduation 2014
Four years ago this month I received a large packet in the mail that changed the course of my life forever. It was the spring of 2010, and at the age of nineteen I had already experienced many obstacles others my age had not. Two years prior I had made the decision to drop out of high school. The disapproving faces, negative comments, and stigma I received for being a young woman born to a family that was unable to support her was devastating. I will never forget the day I withdrew from my high school and the overwhelming feelings of shame and anxiety. After taking the GED test I enrolled into community college, and due to financial complications, was forced to drop out school for the second time. An eighteen-year-old low-wage worker with no direction and limited familial support, the feelings of uncertainty and disappointment began to engulf my spirit once again.
I recently visited my hometown of St. Petersburg, FL and as the sunshine greeted me I realized that what they say is true, that sometimes we have to go back to where we started to appreciate how far it is that we’ve come. I visited with my 10th grade high school teacher, the same woman who wrote my letter of rec for Brandeis when I applied. We talked, laughed, and reminisced about the past. Somewhere between the laughter and memories I uttered softly, “You know, I never thought this could be done.” She looked puzzled. I explained that, as a high school student I never thought any of my peers, and certainly not I, could escape the inevitable future that awaited us all. I never thought we could go away to college, attain a higher standard of living, or attain a higher standard of being.
The morning I set off for Brandeis my nanna told me something that I have kept with me throughout my entire academic career. “You don’t have anything if you don’t have a dream, Lyssa. Remember that, promise me you won’t ever lose sight of what you want and where you need to be.” I don’t think I’ve ever made a promise I meant more than I did that day. At that point in time I did not understand the high cost of building your dreams, or the monumental personal effort I would have to put forth in order to attain them. Read the rest of this entry »