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Ms. Jaida Dent, Valedictorian, Class of 2022, Speech

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Good Morning Everyone,

This is the moment I’ve waited 4 years for, rewritten the speech in my head for the last 6, and it has always been a subconscious dream of mine for the last 18. Being valedictorian to me is more than a title, more than knowing I had the gpa or even stood out amongst a room of other strong and like minded young women. To me it means that the hard work I have put in matters. That my sleepless nights in the summer and the times I went to school even when I never always felt up to it mean something. Because it did to me, and to have been recognized not only by my peers, the teachers, and staff who have helped me get this far, but also for my family, who has always known my potential, to see it come to fruition.

My family is my biggest support system. My brother is my best friend for life. He has been my rock and my biggest confidant. Even when he would always get annoyed by how highly my teachers always spoke of me, he always told me how proud he was of me, even if I wasn’t myself. My godparents have always shown me unconditional love. I know I can be difficult sometimes, but I have never felt you waver and I always appreciated you for that. My stepdad has filled a void that I never knew I needed until I met him. We have our own kind of way of dealing with each other, untraditional to most, but you have always shown me your love in your own way. I have to thank you for treating me and loving me as your own daughter and I to you as my own father. To my mom, you are the best mom a daughter could ask for. Some say that children represent the family and the parents , and I think I’ve shown us well. You have taught me resilience, determination, strength, love, and what it means to be me. Thank you for always showing me growth and what it means to keep going when things are tough. And lastly to my father, who is watching from above. For years, I have said that I’m doing it for you and I wanted to make you proud. So I want to say that I did it Dad, and I hope you’re smiling as you see me. 

This honor that I have been bestowed is not just for me. It’s for all of the amazing young women that I have spent these 4 years with amongst my graduating class. The group of girls you will see walk across the stage today, are some of the most fearless, dedicated, and

talented girls I have ever come across. I don’t mean to flex but, Class of 2022, we are class of it girls! I cannot be more proud and honored to be with you all at this moment. To my sisters, I cannot wait to see what all of you begin to create and blossom into as you open a new chapter in your lives and future careers.

Just like how we have been able to learn from our peers, our teachers have taught us more than what resides in a lesson plan. My LA teacher Ms. Radha, has taught me ethnic studies and IB film year 1. Through her, I have strengthened my reading habits and found a love for analyzing films, but the thing I will remember most of all, is that I need to recognize more of my glows than my growth. I am my biggest critic and I found that during my SLCs, I couldn’t recognize all the good that I’ve done even though it was more than I could count on my fingers. But through her reassurance and her positive energy as an LA teacher, I have learned that I need to recognize my wins, no matter how big or small. I have also learned that she makes a great butter chicken, so to whoever gets her as an LA teacher next, you’re in for a great time.

Ms. Meredith, I have waited since freshman year to be taught by you. I don’t know how, but you have made me excited to write an essay at 9:30 in the morning. You have also given me the chance to cross reading Shakespeare in high school off my bucket list. Thank you, for teaching the DP Cohort in our final year. 

Now, Mr. David, Mr. David, Mr. David. From teaching stats and calculus, to being my mentor during the EE, it’s safe to say that you have become one of the teachers that I was surprised to grow close to. We bicker back and forth sometimes, but the one thing I will remember is that you never gave up on any of us. Your tough love was the push we needed to be better. I will always remember that a bad critique doesn’t mean failure, but rather an opportunity to get better. Because no matter what life throws at you, you can always grow despite the darkness.

The educators are not the only ones who I have to thank. The staff have definitely been there for us no matter what. Ms. Nakia and Ms.Koren, my leading ladies of the Welcome Center. You always put a smile on my face anytime I enter the room and indulge me in conversation. Ms. Koren, we have been rocking together since hybrid learning. From the day you gave me those oranges, you have been someone who I loved having in my corner. I’ll miss seeing you during lunch and running open house events on zoom with you. Ms. Nakia, I came to your desk just to bother you and I’ll miss having to figure out what music to play and how to operate a speaker with you. Ms. Camile, your kindness and calming energy is one I will remember. You’ve taught me that I matter and I need to put myself first, even by saying the word “no”, which is something I’ve often struggled with. Ms. Shannon, you have given me the chance to develop my skills as a person. Through you, I have been able to be in Girls Write Now, be a BELA Ambassador and make some big decisions within the Senior League. You have shown me how to take hold of an opportunity and showcase my best self and my qualities. Mr. Tyler, the greatest hype man that BELA has and will ever see. It can be the simplest thing any of us say, and you’ll be more excited than we are for it. You have given me the chance to strengthen my craft, especially with the way you have taken me to a poetry slam hosted by the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. I will miss your unrelenting joy and uplifting energy and how you have always shown that we as students matter and our voices can be heard.

My 4 years at BELA have definitely been monumental and I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. While writing this speech, I often thought about the what ifs, in my high school career. What if I never continued my poetry? What if I didn’t do IB? What if I didn’t come to BELA? With every one of those questions, there are answers that I don’t want to know because without BELA, I don’t know where I would be, who would be the people around me, and would I be the person I am today. So for all that, I have to give a big thank you to Ms. Nicia. Your vision of creating a school, where we could be given opportunities and chances that most public schools don’t get, has impacted us more than you know. From the daily use of laptops, to the Women’s Symposium, to our amazing college shower last week. This school has blessed me more than you could understand. BELA has started something beautiful and I hope that as time goes on and the school progresses, I hope it remains this way.

I want to end my speech with a quote that has surrounded my time here at BELA. It comes from Nelson Mandela saying, “I never lose. I either win or learn.” In your life, you will have moments of defeat, moments where you feel weak, unworthy, or even an imposter when you know you aren’t. Today, I want to tell you that, you are not weak, you are not a failure, you are not an imposter, and you are more than worthy. Take every moment as a learning experience and grow from it. Take your wins and celebrate them. We have all made it this far, who’s to say we can’t top ourselves and go further. And even if things get rough, know that you have some sisters to call on in times of need, because this is a “See you later”, and not a “Goodbye forever”. So thank you for allowing me to speak to you all today, and once again congratulations to all of us in the Class of 2022 for completing our high school years.