Valedictorian Speech by Jillian Nowicki, Class of 2020

Baccalaureate Mass • June 20, 2020

Good Morning Class of 2020,

I want to thank you for this opportunity to stand up here today and speak on behalf of us all. I am so happy that we are all able to be here today to celebrate this event together at St. Martin of Tours Academy. We have been through a lot in the past few months and it is crazy to think that we are living through monumental points in history. Just in 2020, we have mourned the death of Kobe Bryant, overcome wildfires in Australia and California, dealt with unrest against Iran, initiated virtual learning and social distancing practices because of a global pandemic, experienced the worst economic recession since 2008 because of COVID-19, and fought to end racism while honoring all of the lives we have lost due to ongoing racial injustices and police brutality. And that is in addition to our own personal challenges and journeys, too.  However, through these terrible circumstances and troubled times, our entire school, especially the Class of 2020, has proved that we are stronger than any other class before us. We are resilient and tenacious, we respect all people no matter who they are or what they look like, and we have ensured that these events bring us together, not apart. Although this is not the 8th grade year or graduation that we planned and expected, these moments that we all spend together are even more special because of the time we have spent apart. I am so thankful that we are able to have a formal Baccalaureate mass because I believe we deserve to have a ceremony after all that we have experienced this year.

Recently, our class was asked a question for our morning journal prompt that I found very interesting. We were asked: “What does the word “education” mean to you?” I had never really thought about this before and as I began to write my response, I began learning more and more about what an education really is. In my response I wrote, “I believe that the word ‘education’ not only means the process of learning about core subjects that prepare you for your future, but also experiences that teach you about life. Education is one of the most important aspects of life because if you are educated, you can go through life with more opportunities and more experiences that will help you to grow. Education is not only the information you receive, but also the values and morals you are taught.” While writing this, I suddenly realized just how fortunate I am to have received such an education. Whether we were at school learning, or at home demonstrating diligence through distance and virtual learning, I have received an education at SMA that teaches me to be a good person, not just how to multiply and divide polynomials. Learning moral values is even more important than ever because we are in such a divided world, and as the Generation Z, the lawmakers of the future, we have to be the change in our communities to bring the world together. Knowing how to be a good person is equally important as intellectual and academic growth because even if we know scientific statistics or how to write a timed essay, you cannot make positive change unless you understand how to use  these skills to better the world. I am so grateful for the education I have received at SMA as well as the friends, family, and community that have supported me since day one.

Thank you Class of 2020 and St. Martin of Tours Academy for teaching me so much about the world and about myself, too. You all mean so much to me, and I will never forget the lessons we have been taught by teachers, staff, parents, and students of SMA. Together, we have made unforgettable memories that I will cherish forever, and even though we have had our ups and downs as a class and as individuals, I don’t regret a second of my time at St. Martins. I know that all of you are destined for great things, and I cannot wait to see where you will go in life. I am going to miss SMA so much, but I think that it’s time for the Class of 2020 to move onto the next chapter of our lives. One piece of advice I will always remember is a quote by Michelle Obama. She said, “Don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have, because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.” As we transition into high school and prepare for the rest of our lives ahead of us, remember the values and lessons St. Martin of Tours Academy has taught us. Never forget that you are courageous, intelligent human beings because if we have persevered through approximately 2000 days of school, three years of junior high, and six months of the 2020, I think that together, we can get through anything.

Thank you.

© 2016 St. Martin Academy. All rights reserved.