November 6, 2015
St. Dunstan Catholic School
Good morning everyone! My name is Angelica Du. As some of you may remember, I graduated from St. Dunstan in 2012, and I am currently a senior at Crystal Springs Uplands School. I am honored for the opportunity to speak to you today to share some of my memories from St. Dunstan and to talk about the experiences that have helped me on my journey throughout high school.
Looking back on my dedication as a student, St. Dunstan gave me a strong foundation for my future academic accomplishments, especially in the language arts. When my 9th grade English teacher drilled us with advanced vocabulary to prepare us for the challenging reading material that we were about to study, I found that I easily absorbed the words, already familiar with most of them thanks to Mrs. Aveson’s 7th and 8th grade English classes. Even our simplest exercises, like writing “phenomenon” in the air when asked to spell and define it, have stuck with me as I constantly remind myself to go back to basics. However, I also learned that, in any subject, great students must strive to do more than that. They need to be able to build on this basic foundation by internalizing the material given and drawing their own conclusions from their observations. Most likely you won’t be continuing AR tests when you go to high school, but the importance of reading comprehension continues to build exponentially. As you grow as a student of literature, you will learn to not only think about “what happened in The Giver” but also about “how Lois Lowry chose to present critical moments stylistically” and the larger significance of these choices. Don’t worry if this sounds intimidating right now. In fact, I can assure you that if you continue working hard to expand your library and vocabulary every day you’re at St. Dunstan, you will be in great shape to tackle these questions when the time comes. If you want to become a student who goes beyond just answering questions correctly, however, you have to take risks when delving into concepts by possibly volunteering an answer to a question that maybe doesn’t have a right answer. Whether in history or science, math or literature, I realized that writing well, communicating your ideas clearly, and being brave enough to make these larger connections are of utmost importance when striving for academic success.
With the basic skills associated with early writing and reading that I garnered here and the analytical risks I learned to take in high school, I was able to earn recognition for my work as the Distinction in English Awardee at Crystal Springs this past year.
Looking back on the activities and passions I have pursued over the years, I realized that my drive to take risks outside of the classroom and find new ways to thrive started right here at St. Dunstan as well. During my time here, I was inspired to try things and challenge myself to explore athletics, choir, and student government. I can trace the root of my passion for volleyball to a singular moment during the autumn of 5th grade. I didn’t play volleyball the year before, partly because I was doubtful of my athletic ability and partly because I didn’t know that sports here even existed. Upon that fateful day of tryouts, however, I entered the gym with my too-‐large kneepads and funky-‐looking sports goggles, ready to go.
When the moment came and a serve came over the net, hurtling toward the ground before my bewildered, youthful eyes, my friends heard a thump and there it was – the ball up in the air. And there I was – on the ground with a big elbow burn and an even bigger grin. From that moment onward I was known as the girl who wasn’t afraid to hit the floor. When freshman me walked into the Crystal Springs Gryphon Center for tryouts, I played with a confidence in my skills, a go-‐for-‐it attitude and a desire to put my entire self into the game, just as I had for the last four years here. Now I’m the senior Captain of my Varsity Volleyball team, and I’m proud to say that yesterday we won the League Championship and will be moving on to CCS Playoffs. At St. Dunstan, I was a tri-‐sport athlete, and I owe my conscious desire to excel and push myself beyond expectation to my diverse athletic experiences as a young girl. I also recall singing in Ms. Pacheco’s choir, and I have taken my love for singing into high school as an ensemble member of my school’s Madrigals choir and a soloist in our female a capella group. While I was at St. Dunstan, I also wrote for the Pen With No Ink, and at Crystal I am currently the Editor-‐In-‐Chief of our school magazine, Vantage. For all the current students, my message is this: spend your time here trying new things to find something that excites you. Whether you find it or not doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you went for something wholeheartedly.
Good students can stick to what they know or what they’re good at, and that’s perfectly fine. However, pushing yourself to be greater involves being brave enough to try.
Looking back on how I have continued to grow as Catholic, I realized that I have been able to reflect on my faith wherever I am or may go. This past spring I went to Spain on a school trip to practice my Spanish and explore the cultural diversity. While I was in Spain, I was fortunate enough to witness the midnight processions of Semana Sancta, or Holy Week, with the Spanish people. While I was there, I was reminded of my strong Catholic roots that my years spent at St. Dunstan fostered. Looking back on the type of person I have been and the person I am now, I see that the Christian virtues of kindness, love and generosity instilled during my St. Dunstan upbringing have led me to become the compassionate, service-‐driven student I am today. I remember those chilly mornings making sandwiches for the St. Vincent de Paul organization when I pack lunches for the poor at Samaritan House and decorate cookies in holiday parties for the families at Inn Vision shelter. I recall our faith formation classes and class-‐run Masses when I think about how the strength imparted on me by our community of faith here has guided me in my thoughts and actions throughout high school. To the students, and especially the 8th graders: high school and growing up as a teenager in our society naturally comes with many pressures and new temptations. No matter what school you go to, there’s a chance you may be invited to join a group of peers whom you know in your heart are doing something wrong. You don’t have control over what other people say or do, but you do have control over YOU. The decisions you make while you’re in those situations and the paths you choose as an increasingly independent high schooler determine whether you shape up to be good enough or you end up rising above. Do not be afraid to be different, to stay true to who you are and to be brave enough to say no. I am proud to say that I have remembered the values I learned at St. Dunstan after all these years and continue to put them into practice during times when I’m confronted with these tough decisions.
Having spent 9 of my mere 17 years on this Earth here, I really missed this place while I was off in high school. Just shy of four years ago I stood on this altar, at this very podium, delivering my speech at our 8th grade graduation. The quote I shared by Mark Twain was the following: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” When I spoke these words back then, I had yet to realize how much they would reflect my life and the way I have chosen to pursue success in high school. I would not have become the confident, enthusiastic go-‐getter I am today had I not taken my own advice so many years ago while pushing through the 800 meters at the track meets, singing “Do You Hear What I Hear?” dressed up like an angel every December, and playing Huckleberry Finn in my group’s English presentation. From my experiences at St. Dunstan, I was harnessing the strength I needed to never give up, to go beyond expectation, to strive for academic and athletic success, to seek challenge openly, and to always stay true to who I am. To my fellow students, I hope that you too will take the skills, values and passions you have found here and strive to become more than just a good student, but a great one. Thank you very much, and congratulations to this morning’s awardees!