Valedictorian Address: Keanya Jackson

June 14, 2012

Keanya Jackson is the valedictorian of the UChicago Charter School Class of 2012. 100 percent of her class was accepted to colleges and universities. Keanya will attend the University of Illinois in the fall.

My mentor Ashley introduced me to the famous Chinese philosopher Confucius who once stated,  “He who says he can and he who says he can’t are usually both right”.

How many times have we been told we couldn’t achieve our dreams? And of all those times, how many of us believed it? How long have we allowed that self-doubt to control our lives by using the words "I can't"? I have learned to no longer doubt my abilities. As the class of 2012, we must learn to face self-doubt with self-motivation.

From an early age I was always told that I couldn’t do certain things. I’m the second oldest in a family of nine children. Someone once told me that I wouldn’t be successful in school because I would spend most of my time taking care of my younger siblings instead of focusing on academics. This person was proven wrong my 7th grade year when I received all honors classes and earned all As and Bs. This wasn’t the end to their babbling. It was then stated that the schools I’d attended were not challenging. I began to believe that maybe I wasn’t so smart, but just lucky. I hide my self-doubt.

I never allowed my grades to reflect my situation. When people would congratulate me on doing well in school, I would tell them that it didn’t mean anything. Most people thought that I was being humble, but it was me lacking confidence. When people found out that I was Valedictorian, they showered me with praise, while my lack of confidence let it hit the ground. My achievements in my eyes didn’t amount to anything. It took a while for me to realize that I was up against the best in the class and in order to be the best you must compete with the best.

For a long time, I wanted to look the person that once doubted me in the face and say, "Look at me now! If it were so easy, why did I spent those long nights studying? Why did I have to carry a heavy load back and forth to school? Why was my face drenched in sweat after every PEW class? If it were so easy, why did I have to work so hard? The answer is because I wanted to succeed."

It starts with self and once you realize that you’re in your corner, others will appear. Ms. Steele once said, “That’s when you’ll realize, that 'can' is more powerful then 'can’t'.”

I learned to appreciate every person because everyone has something different to offer. One person in particular happens to be Ms. Moore (Woodlawn Campus Director). She is the woman that I will be in 10 more years. She spends the majority of her time helping out students so that they’ll be able to enjoy their high school years. Over the years, she has done so much for me that I will envy the child that’s blessed with her as a parent. I can’t forget the three important women in my life, my mother, Tori Woods; my Auntie Terri; and Ms. Mayo- Calhoun. Together these women have shaped me into the young lady that I am today.

A prompt on one of my college essays asked, “Between living and dreaming there’s a third thing; What is it?” My response was, “In order to dream, one must live, but to live for a dream without taking action would be a waste of life. Dreams don’t come true out of nowhere. A plan must be set into place to help guide you in the right direction. One can dream, but if no action is taken, then his dream serves no purpose. The class of 2012 has already begun taking action. However, today should not be where our dreams end. Graduating from the Woodlawn Campus was simply a goal that has been completed and put us one-step closer to our remaining dreams.

Next school year I will be attended the University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign where I will be majoring in finance. I understand that I will run into obstacles but because I have faith, I will achieve my goals. I am not the girl I was freshmen year and I will not be the same young lady in ten years. I will be superior. We all will be superior, because we can.