Elijah Mythius Vega
I would like to begin my remarks with some words of gratitude. First, I would like to thank the faculty and staff of Westtown for the patience and guidance that they’ve provided to me and my peers over the course of our time here. I would also like to personally thank my family for always believing in me, especially my mother, who told me after delivering my 5th grade valedictorian speech, that I would one day be the valedictorian of my graduating class in high school, as well… you told me so. I would especially like to thank the class of 2019, because without your kindness and support over the past two years, I wouldn’t be standing where I am today. It is being surrounded by your light that has encouraged my own to shine.
When I first arrived at Westtown in the fall of the last school year, my emotions were in disarray. I had made it out of the Bronx, not falling victim to a system that failed its youth. I would have access to resources that would help me excel in lacrosse, the game that I loved, and an education that would help me to love learning just as much. But I was leaving the people who loved me the most, who constantly lifted me up and showed me the limitlessness of my inner excellence, and allowed me to pursue a better life—even if it meant that I had to be two states away from them.
After the first week of school, this disparate combination of emotions was replaced with shock. I had expected to feel isolated before I showed up at Westtown, but instead I was welcomed into a new home. Walking through the hallway to class, everyone said hello to each other, and during their free time I saw my peers together on South Lawn throwing a frisbee or studying at the picnic table. In the dining hall, no one sat alone and everyone was smiling at their tables, The Giant hovering above. And even though I was the new kid on campus, I was welcomed into every activity as if I had been at Westtown my whole life, and for all of my peers and their love, I am extremely grateful.
I tried to remember when the spark was lit, trying to fit some magical moment into this speech, but I honestly can’t remember exactly when the class of 2019 became family. Maybe it was during my first time at Ice Line, watching Cruz ask people for help while Tomas Slama skated by him backwards. It could’ve been this year, after JP reminded us for the thousandth time that “We’re living in the good times.” It could've been at our senior retreat, while the class sang aloud at the campfire after making s’mores. The moment may be now, sharing my last moments as a Westtown student with all of you, while realizing that I’ll once again be departing from another family.
This time though, there is no sorrow. It would be selfish to keep our amazing gifts from the world. Our class is filled with athletes who’ve broken records in their sports, artists whose work will one day find itself in museums, and performers that have packed the theater throughout their Westtown careers with dances, musical ensembles, and theater productions. And further beyond these amazing accomplishments, we are Westonians. Westtown has taught us kindness, critical reflection, individuality, the value of integrity, and the importance of peace. We have been encouraged to find our own truths, and have been guided toward stewardship of a more equitable and sustainable world.
We live in an uncertain time, an era where we will have to take the skills that we learned at Westtown and translate it into action. In the coming years, technology will make its longest strides, and we will be living in a world that is limited only to the imagination of its greatest thinkers. Our generation will find ways to solve the world's greatest issues, and fulfill the world's greatest dreams. This is an era where we could eradicate poverty and secure the safety of our planet.
However, this new era in our history will need leaders, and I can’t imagine a more capable group of young adults than the ones graduating with me today. Dessie might be the one to solve the issues of climate change and pollution. Jon Bol may go beyond basketball, revitalizing developing nations. And Anabel could be the president of the United States. Each of us could change the world, because as much as this world will demand from our minds, it will demand even more from our hearts. On the path to changing the world, you won’t need a Phd, or millions of dollars. All that you will need is to lead with love. And this class, Westtown class of 2019, knows perfectly how to shine the light of love from within. So if you ever find yourself unsure of where to go next, or lost on an already chosen path, do what any proper Westonian would—just turn toward the light.