ETHS commencement: Senior class remarks from Samara Wilson

ETHS senior Samara Wilson addresses the crowd at Sunday morning’s commencement ceremony. Credit: ETHS District 202 YouTube

At Sunday morning’s Evanston Township High School commencement ceremony, senior Samara Wilson delivered the senior class remarks. Students interested in speaking at each spring’s graduation must submit their writing, poem or musical selection, and Wilson earned the honor of speaking on behalf of the Class of 2022. Here is the text of her speech, which you can also view at the 51 minute mark of this video.

Hello graduates, families, friends, faculty and staff. What a privilege it is for me to stand before you today, and what a great day to be a Wildkit.

My name is Samara Wilson, and I am one of you. I transferred to ETHS this year from Jones College Prep in Chicago. I remember my first days of attending ETHS, I was scared, anticipating something, anything to go wrong. Despite these negative feelings, I felt like those typical, high school movie, teenage protagonists, where they move to a new town and become super popular at school until they make friends with the antagonists, and everyone hates them.

Luckily, and unluckily, that was not my fate. I fell straight into my studies, slowly becoming known by my peers as a writer, artist and thinker. There was no romantic interest to save me from losing myself. The hard truth was that high school was not like the movies. There was no single protagonist, no typical story arc with the rising or falling action, no pillow fights or ghost stories with your friends and no Zac Efron. It’s truly devastating.

And on top of that, we endured not one, but two years of a global pandemic, which I’ll save the sob stories of repetitive narratives of “unprecedented times” for another day.

We were forced to grow up and face the reality of civil and political unrest, global health crises, wars, climate change and the unlearning of harmful narratives passed down from our society. The final years of our childhood were challenging, to say the least, but we persevered, and we did it together.

However, there is a harder truth that our generation is learning more and more every day. We need to do more than just persevere. It isn’t enough to endure the challenges we face. We need to conquer them, change the systems set in place to put us down and create alternatives to the enforced ways of life. It’s our job to make the abnormal normal.

I’m extremely grateful to Evanston Township for teaching me how to be a proactive member of society and reigniting my love for learning. ETHS has not only allowed me to meet people with similar aspirations, but it has also given me hope and pride in my generation. ETHS students don’t just tolerate change. We initiate it. ETHS gave me the spaces and resources I needed to be unapologetically myself as a queer, Black female, something that I wish I had many, many years ago.

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