Khaymanta, a graduate from the class of 2018 at Reynolds High School, was the elected student speaker at our end of year celebration event and we wanted to share his inspirational speech with you.
“I am very pleased to be speaking to you today, on behalf of the College Possible students of Oregon. My name is Kaymanta and I am a graduating senior from Reynolds High School. I hope that you feel as excited as I am to be part of this grand celebration of senior and junior accomplishments. For I am extremely proud of my peers and myself for coming this far.
A few years back, I would have never believed that I would be standing before you today, let alone be standing in a high school. Back in 2015, I dropped out of high school. I wasn’t a particularly bad student, I hadn’t failed any classes, but I often found myself roaming the halls of Benson High School, distracted and frustrated while I should have been in chemistry. More often than not, you would find me in the in the cafeteria serving detention after school or in the vice principal’s office serving an in-school suspension. School wasn’t for me, or at least I thought. I didn’t feel like I belonged, and I definitely did not believe that I was going to graduate. I needed support, but there wasn’t anyone at school that I truly had a connection with, no one I truly trusted, no one I felt had my back. So I gave up.
After I dropped out, I spent a year living outside the United States, mainly residing in Mexico, but also living in Guatemala, Belize and El Salvador with my dad. We weren’t tourists, but were legitimately looking for a place to live and restart our lives. Ultimately, we failed our endeavors to start a new life, which I believe was for the best. Sometimes you gotta fail to succeed. Which brings me to my own fresh start. A new beginning. I returned to the United States after not going to school for a year, and re-enrolled in school. This was a turning point in my life.
My first day of school was several weeks late into the academic year. I knew no one and knew nothing about my new school. But there was one thing I knew: I wanted to go to college to change my life. But I didn’t know how to get there, because like many of us in the room, no one in my household had ever gone to college before. So I sought out help.
On one of the first days that I arrived at Reynolds, I curiously walked into the college and career center and asked about college resources. The coordinator at my new school handed me a piece of paper with a room number on it. Referring me to Jenn Johnson, the junior coach at Reynolds. Immediately, I went to the classroom where I was told session was held. I met Jenn Johnson for the very first time and asked her if I could become one of her students. But Jenn told me that College Possible was not accepting any new students, but that I could be an unofficial student. I decided to take this blonde smiling woman’s offer very seriously. After a few months of being an unofficial student without missing a day of session, I ended up meeting one of Jenn’s supervisors, Casey, who I introduced myself to and a pleaded my case to become an official student. She listened to me and handed me an application for College Possible. And after completing the application and writing two essays I finally became a College Possible student. This is how I came to stand before you today.
I want to take a moment to recognize the diligence and dedication of the College Possible coaches and staff this year. Please give them a hand.
Jenn Johnson, my amazing College Possible coach, who will attend Washington University in St. Louis next year for a masters in social work, has been my main source of support these last two years. I trust her like no other. She has had my back since the first day I met her. With her help editing what seems like hundreds of essays and having insightful conversations rich with advice and encouragement on a daily basis, she has helped me accumulate over $75,000 in scholarships and grants. Not only did she help me afford and attend the University of Oregon this fall, but she has made a profound impact on life by being my friend and mentor. She is an outstanding person and I love her. Thank you, Jenkins.
Before I end this speech, I want to talk about something that is very dear to me: I truly believe that higher education should be universally free and guaranteed as a right to all people. This means that there should not be a single person in this room that pays or go into debt to get a college degree. Students shouldn’t be spending months and hundreds of hours working on scholarships every day and feeling nervous, worried or constantly stressed about their futures. Students should be learning. Scholarship interviews where a group of strangers decides whether you are worthy of financial assistance. shouldn’t be a thing. It is despicable that we do not guarantee such a basic right in this country. It is an injustice. Remember, higher education should be a universal human right. Even though there are so many barriers to obtaining a higher education in this country, we, the youth, have to persevere. I am proud to say that I will be attending the University of Oregon this fall.
Thank you for having me. And thank you for letting me be part such an amazing organization. I wish all of you well in your future endeavors.”
Please join us in wishing Khaymanta, and the entire class of 2018, the best of luck next year in college!