‘We’re the solution’
It was difficult to reconcile the ebullient atmosphere with the event’s theme.
Freedom HS’s commencement at Stabler Arena June 6 was by and large electric and rarely affected by the gravity of “Pursuing Discomfort and Embracing Change.”
Each speaker stressed challenges the new graduates would soon be facing in the adult world while celebrating the many accomplishments they’d already achieved. Perhaps the most obvious and most often mentioned was the new American Sign Languages course, the fruits of which were on display as the chorus collectively signed along while singing the national anthem and alma mater.
Student speaker Delores Allen, her voice quivering with emotion, listed ASL among numerous points of pride for her classmates this year. Others include championships for tennis, soccer and football teams, art shows, theater victories at the Freddy Awards, stellar donations for MiniTHON and a second year for the LGBT day of silence. Additionally, from maintaining straight As to perfect attendance to amassing hundreds of volunteer hours, Freedom’s 500 graduates accumulated almost 800 individual awards, honors and scholarships.
“I’m so proud and honored to be a part and be representing a class that has done so much for this school in the past year.” But, she said, it’s time for change, and each of them needs to do so when “the leaders and supposed role models we’re supposed to be looking to outside this room won’t do the same thing.”
Allen said they can lean on and be inspired by each other, as they have for the last 18 years, to get through the hard times in a world growing more contentious. She quoted the late Californian rapper and community activist Nipsey Hussle; “If you look at your circle and don’t get inspired, you don’t have a circle. You have a cage.”
With a final minute of empowerment, she said in several languages, including ASL, “Remember we’re not the problem, we’re the solution.
“I love you all and will never forget any of you.”
Superintendent Dr. Joseph Roy addressed that pull of togetherness, saying commencement is also a celebration of community, as there are thousands of people beyond classroom walls who help make the Bethlehem Area School District and its graduates successful. “The community builds the students, and now graduates give back by sharing their unique gifts with the community.”
Board President Mike Faccinetto shared a personal thought on discomfort and success: While attending a Justin Timberlake concert with his wife, his own awkwardness didn’t preclude his acknowledging the music legend is himself an example of having to change and take risks to succeed. “He had to step out of his comfort zone and work hard, and that’s my message to you today,” he said. “Be bold. The easy path isn’t always the best, and it certainly isn’t the most fun… or satisfying.”
Faculty-selected speaker Alex Rodriguez took his teachers’ advice and chose spoken word poetry for his out-of-the-box address. His florid work, sometimes rising to a crescendo, encouraged his classmates to recall all those who have helped them along the way and that nothing worthwhile is simply handed to you. “Success does not come easy. Success is a battle, so rage. Rage on. Rage for the path of discomfort,” he said, like a dreamer fighting negativity, burning bright in a dark storm.
“We were born for greatness.”