At our Graduation & End-of-Year Celebration on May 29th, one of our graduating seniors gave a passionate speech about his time at River Oaks Academy. We are so proud of his accomplishments and are delighted to share this with you. Please enjoy the transcript of that speech below:
Dear distinguish guests, fellow students, family and ROA staff, my name is Marlin, and it is a privilege to be standing here today. I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on my journey at River Oaks Academy, ROA.
In 2016 after leaving my former school, I found myself an insecure, generally sad teenager, who had some anxiety of the great big world. I was self-conscious of my every action and I couldn’t stifle a sinking fear of people rejecting me. A general sense of unrest occupied my heart.
I recall my first day with River Oaks. I believe I had yet to officially enroll when I decided to check out the school and see the campus. It was that day when I happened upon Leina’s creative writing workshop, to which I was welcomed with utmost hospitality and open arms. At the time I had not the slightest idea that this was the very beginning of a schooling experience that would be kind, transformative, priceless and frankly, beautiful.
What ensued in the three succeeding years was a slow, steady, nurturing of my talent and confidence. I grew and blossomed socially, made new friends, discovered career ventures and illustrated a children’s book.
I say this with the deepest sincerity…the people I’ve met at River Oaks, my friends, my mentors, are sincerely amongst the finest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Every single member of the incredible staff at River Oaks Academy treated my peers and I with kindness, respect, and legitimate caring. The people at ROA have hearts of gold. It’s almost a little bit perplexing. I don’t exactly know where they came from, but they all came together in this one small school with the intention of giving their time, mentorship, love, and attention to all their students. These beautiful people encouraged my growth at every single turn, every single day.
While I was in the midst of my social learning and growth, I’d step aside once a day to attend Leina’s creative writing workshop where I’d open my heart and hear others do the same. I cherish those days, I cherish you Leina, and I am so, so grateful for every day I received the privilege to speak with you, and attend your class.
Kathy and Michal, I attended your college and career course, and attempted to the hospitality course, until it was canceled due to low enrollment. You both taught me strength and discipline. I always felt you two were utmost figures of honor, courtesy and above all, respect. You two are incredible role models for the students, and I can’t thank you enough for the opportunity to attend your class. I’ll take the lessons I’ve learned from that class, and the experiences with the people I’ve met there, with me forever. Thank you both.
My dear Richard, you are truly an incredible man. I’m so, so glad our paths aligned, and I had the pleasure of knowing you, speaking to you, hearing your story, hearing your wisdom. I hope you know every conversation I’ve had with you has resonated with me. I’ve learned so much from you. Thank you for being a pillar of good, a source of respect, caring, and for giving your time to listen to each and every student’s heart. I feel beyond lucky to have known you.
And to my mentor, dearest friend, Leanne. You believed in me before I believed in myself. Every step of the way, with care, kindness and guidance, helped me meet my full potential. You knew me best, all the ins and outs of my head and my heart. You always knew what I sought after, what I aspired for, and you did absolutely everything in your power to help me along the way. Thank you for every moment. For your encouragement in my writing, for all you’ve done for my illustration work and all the unbelievable opportunities you’ve given me. I couldn’t have possibly asked for anyone more incredible to be by my side throughout this time. Thank you so much Leanne, I won’t ever forget you.
You’ve heard my story, and how precious these individuals have been to me, but I am only one student. All of my peers and fellow graduates have been along for the same ride I have. I won’t paint them all with the same stroke, but from speaking with them, and knowing them over the years, I know many who have had similar circumstances such as I … kids who arrived at River Oaks unknowing of their potential, coming from various backgrounds in which they felt less happy than they do today.
I’ve had the pleasure of watching my peers blossom and grow beside me with help from the River Oaks staff. I speak for my entire class and their families when I say we are so grateful for all of you, for all of the support, and for coming along with us as we navigate our worlds and find young adulthood.
I was always eager to graduate high school and just get it over with. I was living a day ahead, wanting to move forward, wanting to grow up as fast as possible. As I stand here today . . . on the final words of my speech, surrounded by you all . . . I realize I will miss this very much.