(Welcome Address delivered at the Commencement Exercises of La Salle Academy on Thursday evening, 8 June 2017)
Family and friends of the class of 2017, welcome to La Salle Academy’s 146th graduation ceremony
Let me start of by thanking the amazing faculty and staff at La Salle Academy for giving me the opportunity and ability to stand before all of you today. It is very humbling to be here overlooking a crowd of people who have contributed so much to the last four years at La Salle and all of their loved ones.
For those of you whom I have never personally met, “Hi. I’m Abby Almonte.”
This is one of the first things I say when meeting someone new. You’ve got to start somewhere, and more often than not, it’s with a name. And I’ve just added one more to the average list of 80,000. Yes that’s right. The average person will meet nearly 80,000 people in their lifetime—80,000 different names, 80,000 different stories. Yet, how many of these names do people really hear? Do they really remember?
We’ve all got a name, heck some of us even have nicknames. However, every name comes with more than a few syllables. It comes with a reputation attached. Different emotions, associations, memories and reactions stem from each person’s individual nature. The name they’ve made for themselves these past few years through their everyday actions can prove a lot about someone.
It is important to remember people’s names. I will never forget an exercise assigned to my Religion class freshman year. Every student was to pick a word that alliterates with their first name. By the end of the week, we were to have everyone’s names memorized for a quiz. It was my teacher’s way of introducing us to one another. I was lucky enough to sit near Ballin’ Brenden and Jogging Joe–two guys I still talk to today.
There are common names like Jack and Jill. Then there are the famous names like Beyonce or Madonna. There are names of masterpieces such as “The Quesarito” or “The Big Mac” and then there are names of places, my personal favorite is the one and only… La Salle Academy.
The name of my school, my home away from home, and the place I am so saddened to be leaving today.
With this name comes emotion so deep, memories so fond and connections so strong, it will be impossible to forget. La Salle is more than just the name of our school, it’s a family name. Similar to any family name, the community here encourages us to wear it well, to wear it respectfully and most importantly to wear it with pride.
In the eighth grade, my parents gave me the choice of which high school I would like to attend. For me, listening and seeing people talk about La Salle with such a positive connotation and perception, it was a “no brainer.” These people were proud of the name they wore, and I have been too since I decided I wanted to be a Ram.
Over the years I have built up quite a large stack of La Salle gear. In fact I have a whole drawer of my Pottery Barn set dedicated to all of the items I’ve collected. I tested a theory that began my sophomore year, when I was convinced my La Salle crew neck was a magnet. No matter where I was, Stop and Shop, a Gwen Stefani concert, the Fort Lauderdale airport, people always seemed to recognize the name written across my chest, and came to speak to me about their glory days.
They would introduce themselves, tell a story or two and say something along the lines of “Incredible school, that La Salle Academy.” It was then I realized that La Salle has certainly done an unbelievable job not only distinguishing but maintaining our name, our reputation, both being equally important because as mom always says, “It can take a lifetime to build a reputation, and only a few minutes to break one.”
That starts from within. It is the people inside this building tonight who have contributed to La Salle’s name. It is the 146 classes before us who have done their share, and will continue with the thousands of students, families, and faculty members years from now who will do theirs when the time comes.
Anyone who has ever looked in a baby book knows each name has both a meaning and an origin. In terms of origin, this school was founded in 1871. However, the Lasallian mission began with Saint John Baptist de La Salle hundreds of years prior. His main goal was to cultivate and educate the minds of young people with a purpose of service and compassion.
You could interpret La Salle Academy’s name several ways though. For you could argue La Salle represents many things and being Lasallian comes with countless qualities. However, I want to share with you my own personal meaning and interpretation of what it means to TRULY wear the Lasallian name.
As high school comes to a close, often times you’ll hear people ask a student about their plans for after graduation. “What do you want to do? Where are you going? What are you majoring in?”
Although I have learned endless lessons here, the most powerful one I took out of this school comes from the quote I saw painted on the wall of the cafeteria the day I shadowed. It reads, “Enter to learn, leave to serve.” I studied that wall, and have referenced it daily, promising to be grateful for all that I was about to learn and apply when the time came.
So now that the time has come, and when people ask me what I’m doing next year, I tell them that I’ll be attending Loyola Maryland as a Marketing major. Because well that’s my plan. But you see, it doesn’t really matter what I do or where I go if I don’t take what I learned here AND if I don’t take the La Salle name with me.
I have come to the realization that the best way to achieve success is to dedicate my life to things that don’t come with a price tag or a degree. It is more important to be open to God’s gifts of faith, hope, and love, and always major in, or practice the concept of service with compassion.
These are the things that will truly make us wiser, make us happier and allow us to impact the world.
There is so much potential in all of us, just waiting to be unleashed.. So much exploring to do. From our potential, we have an opportunity, and we need to establish our names.
So think about yourself and your own journey. How have you carried our Lasallian name from 2013 to today? Our name, La Salle Academy Class of 2017. We did that. We contributed to that name, and today we wear it well.
But when today is over, and the graduation celebrations end, how do you plan to honor the family name, the Lasallian name and most importantly, when all is said and done, how do you want people to remember your own name? Maybe it will be in lights on Broadway, or on the door of an elementary school classroom. Wherever it may be, never forget that your name is yours alone and you have the power to make it anything you would like.
I know many of you are thinking that years from now there will only be a handful of people from high school whose names you will remember. But quite honestly, if you can look back twenty, thirty, even fifty years from now and remember just one friend or one teacher whose name remains influential to you, then consider that a success. And always remember there’s a man no student here will forget. Saint John Baptist de La Salle—the saint who continually prays for us, the name that we will remember from the place that we will never forget.
Congratulations to everyone here tonight.
The class of 2017, that’s our name.
God bless and welcome to graduation.
Abigail C. Almonte—Alumna, Class of 2017