When I was a senior in high school, I really wanted to give the senior speech but I wasn’t valedictorian and I wasn’t the senior class president. I was just a drama geek that really had no remarkable talent. I couldn’t dance or sing and my acting was questionable but I loved the arts. I loved it since I was a little girl but I wasn’t blessed with any talents. The best feeling was to be on that giant Birmingham Community Charter High School stage. It seemed so huge to me and it had these blinding stage lights. Of course, there was this tremendous spooky history about the entire school that completely captured my soul. It was enough for me to be around all the talent and try to be one of them Or try to have a say on our competition skits. I fought my overly strict parents for this right. To stay and rehearse with the talented folks. Trust me, my strict father was not happy but my mom always had my back.
So when the school made an announcement that seniors could audition for the senior speech…I got excited because I was always a good speaker and I always had something to say which came from growing up with brothers and arguing about everything. Growing up, I loved to be right and I actually still do. I had tough skin and Angelica Pickles(Rugrats) was my role model. I know everyone remembers Angelica as a bully but I saw her as the leader of the pack. Anyways, that is a story for another day. So I went to my English teacher and I told him about wanting to write a speech and he was so excited. I wrote a draft but I had no idea what he told me to do. I didn’t understand his notes. I was lost. And I told him but he didn’t understand why I was confused. I told my friend Tracy, who is still one of my good friends today, about my concerns. I wasn’t going to win with this type of writing. It was more of an essay than a speech.
Tracy directed me to her English teacher, Mr. Kusaka. She was very smart and was part of the humanities program, which basically included most of the very smart kids. I went to Mr. Kusaka and he felt bad for me. He said, he usually doesn’t help students that aren’t in his class because I should be able to go to my own teacher. Still, he advised me to go home and write. He told me to write how I think the speech should be. What did I want to say to the senior class? That weekend, I sat on the floor of my tiny bedroom and I put my earphones on. Back then, I had this odd connection with music, which, unfortunately, I don’t really have anymore. I wish I remembered what song it was but I don’t. But, whatever song it was, it made me cry and I wrote these lines that were so powerful to me that I kept balling my eyes out. It summed up my high school experience and where we will be heading. It wasn’t a speech about college but more about remembering all the little things about high school.
On Monday, I showed Mr. Kusaka and he was impressed. He gave me a few pointers and wished me good luck. On the day of the audition for the speech, I asked my theater teacher, Ms. Amanda Swan, to take a good look at it. It was last minute, so she told me to work on the way I delivered the speech for the audition. We went over the lines together and she guided me through the places I should pause or speed it up because it was a timed speech of about three minutes. My goal was to keep everyone with me for those three minutes and for no one to dose off.
I auditioned and I had no idea how to feel.
A week later, I was in homeroom and I got a text message from my friend Marlon, he congratulated me. I was confused and asked what he was talking about. He said, “Didn’t you hear the announcement just now? You got the senior speech!” I was filled with shock because I never got the part for anything I auditioned for. I remember a lot of classmates being shocked too and wondering if it's going to be any good.
But, I knew it was good. See I have this cursed gift. I know when I have gold but you can’t always have gold. Sometimes it's sterling silver is just as good. I knew my speech was gold.
I walked up to the stage during graduation and I was the last speech. I was more nervous about my family being there than all the other hundreds of people. The graduation was held on the Birmingham football field, which is huge. I had to reach the families on the bleachers and the graduates on the field.
It was windy and my hat flew off and my waist-long hair blew in the wind. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but it was powerful and I felt like I connected with everyone. When I finished my speech, a lot of my classmates ran up to me in tears. Many of us were in tears.
*You can read more work by Frshta Mangal @ frshta.com