The Speech: Intern Khloe, Her Middle School’s Valedictorian, Spoke About Hope For The Pandemic Graduating Class Of 2023

For New York City, the school year has nearly concluded. At Mott Hall III, as it is with 600 public middle schools across the boroughs, students are moving on to high schools. Our excellent intern Khloe Wilkerson was named valedictorian, and here her powerful speech, given just days ago to students and teachers. We kept the introduction, too. Khloe mentions teachers you may not know, but offers a glimpse into the utter import of memorable educators who go the extra mile for students in our schools today.

By Khloe Wilkerson

Class of 2023, it has been amazing to hear the fantastic words that have been shared today. I feel deeply privileged to be a part of such a significant event. This wouldn’t have been possible without the assistance of countless individuals. To the exclusive circle of teachers, mentors, administrators, friends, colleagues, parents, and particularly those who have gone the extra mile, I cannot express my gratitude enough. To my strong, inspiring, best friend, my mother, for always being there for me and ensuring that my cup is filled to the brim. 

To my committed and compassionate father for motivating me and demonstrating how to get through difficult situations. Thank you for being the “chill” parents, the entertaining parents, and the empathetic parents. To my siblings who always looked out for me and brought joy to my face. It’s an honor to be your younger sister, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Thanks to my friends who always knew how to make me smile, for allowing me to enjoy my middle school experience, and for accepting me for who I am. 
And to my teachers for imparting lessons, experiences, and guidance that I will always cherish. Thank you Mr. Georges, also known as “The Goat” for making sure we were well prepared for regents by having after school programs and cracking jokes in class. Ms. Paliotta for always giving me reassurance and making sure I was okay. Mr. Connolly for pushing me to do my best and the heartfelt stories about your daughters. “Homework out, let’s go!!” I appreciate Mr. O’Callaghan for the encouragement, help with my writing pieces, and always having an open ear for me to talk to. Ms. Roberts for bringing the best out of everyone and entertaining us with your dance moves. Thank you Ms. Fendelman for ensuring that everyone was always in a good mood and being patient with us. Thanks Ms. Yi for always uplifting us and going out of your way to make sure we understood Korean. I want to give a special thank you to all the teachers and everyone else who have played a role in getting me where I am today, even if I didn’t mention you, I offer a heartfelt thank you.

We started middle school from the luxury of our beds…literary. “6 feet” (of distance) began in an era of face masks, isolation, tiktok dances, visco girls, roller skating, trends, and zoom calls. And now, we live in an era of hugs, compassion, in-person learning, and still with tiktok trends and dances, as well as a common fear of huge crowds. 

The transition from elementary school to middle school was the first time we had to actually go out of our way to make friends. The years when our social skills were snatched from us. We subsequently discovered that the place where we first felt those butterflies in our gut was called a “crush.” 

Years of bottle flipping in class, Snapchat, revving up an all-nighter to write essays, and so much more. Having the ability to participate in several groups such as the New York Videogame Critics Circle, Student Council, and Peer Group Connection, where we were able to form fantastic relationships with 6th graders, and support them in navigating their first year of middle school. 

Having great experiences, such as going on trips like Club Getaway, when we all thought we were going to die gripping on for dear life while screaming our way through the obstacle course. Or when we went ice skating and, despite the fact that only a few individuals knew how to ice skate, we were able to have fun despite falling a million times.

These three years of middle school provided us with a period of adventures and good memories. Yet somehow, June 20th 2023 has arrived in the blink of an eye. We are the pandemic graduating class of 2023. We are graduating, coming out of one of the century’s most significant events. We’ll be telling our children and grandkids about this years from now, having to explain everything. Used Zoom for classes, woke up the minute class started, didn’t have to ask to use the restroom, and sat in awkward silence as the teacher asked a question to 25 silenced black boxes. We had a senior year like no other; in a flash, our lives transformed, and adapted. This IS the most unstoppable graduating class in Mott Hall 3 history. 

Seniors, this invisible killer changed our world, but it also changed us. We discovered how to take advantage of every opportunity, enjoy our own company, regain our social skills, and use hope as a tool for personal development. Keep in mind that your success and ability aren’t determined by the titles you get. Honor Student, President, Valedictorian, teacher’s pet. It’s about the unique and in-depth stories that each of us has to tell. 

It is what you create from the opportunities you are given that defines you. You cannot neglect happiness along the path, therefore find pleasure in all you do. Don’t deprive the world of your happiness because of the darkness of others. Don’t be afraid to do anything because regret hurts more than rejection and failure. Stop telling yourself you’re not good enough, because trust me, you are! The world is yours as of right now! We’re only getting started Class of 2023! Thank you! 

Bronx native Khloe Wilkerson is our youngest intern. She recently won a college scholarship and completed our journalism and writing class at Mott Hall III twice in a row!

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