It was standing room only the afternoon of December 14 in the Spiritual Life Center chapel. High school graduates’ Serenity and Karmen* strolled down the aisle as Pomp and Circumstance played and students, teachers and staff cheered and applauded them.
What makes each Gerber graduation special and unique is that teachers speak about the journey of each youth and President/CEO Marlin Livingston provides remarks and advice as they start a new chapter in their lives. This ceremony was special for another reason, too, as Serenity, one of the graduates, addressed the crowd.
"Serenity is not the first student to speak at graduation, but it rarely happens," Gerber Principal Jennifer Rohn said. "She advocated for it and was willing to write her thoughts in advance to be approved. Serenity did a lovely job. She's a young lady with so much potential!"
Serenity now also believes in her potential. She doesn’t sugarcoat what she’s been through and readily admits her path to hope and healing has been hard, very hard. But she now realizes her own strength and that she holds the power to carry on.
"There may be some big success stories of kids who have been at Cunningham and yeah, I guess I could be one of those success stories," Serenity said. "I want kids to know that it's not going to be easy. You're going to have hard times but later on, like me, you're going to see that being at Cunningham changed a lot of things and made a difference."
Here is Serenity's graduation speech:
"I want to just say that these last three years have been full of ups and downs but again, I've proved to myself that I'm a survivor and proved to others that I can and will make it, one day at a time. A shoutout to Ms. Rohn <principal> and Ms. Gatsche <assistant principal> for doing their hardest to keep me motivated and for making accommodations. To my teachers and staff, I know I wasn’t always the easiest kid to deal with, but you stuck with me and look, thanks to you, I pushed through and made it to this special day. To my family for being there to listen and reminding me of who I am, so I would stay on track. The struggles along the way are meant to shape us for a purpose and a legacy to leave behind. All I can say is, congratulations to us for accomplishing one of the biggest moments in our lives with many more to come. I’m so happy to be here; I look back and remember all the times I said I wouldn’t be here today, and I am! Thank you!"
*name has been changed to protect the privacy of our youth