Lakeisha Allen was a student speaker at this year’s Summer Institute in Indianapolis, IN. Below is her speech as prepared. You can also watch her speech!
Freshman year, “It can be the best or the worst year of high school,” they said. “Friendships will be tested or created,” they said. “The AVID binder isn't THAT big!” they said. …Okay, wait, no one said that one. I mean, have you seen them?! I came into freshman year knowing one thing only: This was the beginning of a new chapter in life. I had to take every opportunity into my hands and hold onto it. With that, I had to deal with the wound of my father passing away and my mother becoming a single parent facing her own personal struggles. I knew that I had to tackle this challenge ahead of me and succeed because I was determined to make my mother proud and my father smile down on me from heaven.
I remember the first day of AVID being like an awkward first date. We didn't really know what to say to each other, so we waited to see who would be that kid to break the ice. Students came from all walks of life, different social groups, and various races. We were all thrown together into the melting pot we call AVID. Oftentimes, high school is a place of pure separation, but AVID breaks down those social barriers. If AVID has taught me nothing else—which trust me, it has—it has taught me the importance of letting your guard down and venturing outside your comfort zone. No more am I a meek and quiet girl standing away from others. Oh no, my voice is heard, and my face is seen!
With any journey that you go on, you want people to support you. You want people who will tell you, “Get it together” or “Keep it up”; with AVID, you have both. We make each other better people. We push each other when we see that they aren't living up to their true potential. It was once stated that, “A brave man acknowledges one’s strengths.” We are humble. We must tear down our masks of pride and be able to accept others’ accomplishments and our own weaknesses. AVID has had the ability to teach me just that. There are people in my class who are better socially, better artistically, or better athletically, but I’ve learned that just because they may be better at a certain thing doesn't mean that I don't have anything to offer. We embrace what each of us is good at, not what we lack.
Not only do the students make AVID what it is, but so do the teachers. And when it comes to the AVID teachers, I know all about those, seeing as I had three different ones. If AVID is the family, the teachers represent the parents. The AVID teacher does not simply teach curriculum; he or she teaches discipline, the value of hard work, and an appreciation of focus and perseverance. A truly successful AVID teacher is one who sees their students as more than just another paper to grade, but more so another life to change.
Because our AVID family has become so close, we have had the opportunity to share intimate details with each other, no judgment present. What is said isn’t repeated because we have all come to understand each other’s life struggles. I can honestly say that I can cry in front of my AVIDers with no hesitation or humiliation, and I can't say that for everyone. Ernest Hemingway said, “The best way to find out if you can trust someone is to trust them.” It may sound like such a simple statement, but you’d be surprised by the amount of people who guard themselves and don't give someone a chance to be trusted. Coming into AVID, we had to realize that, “Yes, we’re strangers, but I’m going to be with these strangers for a while, so I might as well give them a chance!”
AVID is no regular class that just anyone puts down on their schedule to fill a spot; it is a commitment. It’s a commitment to yourself to truly challenge what you’re used to. It is a commitment to your peers that you will motivate them. It is a commitment to your AVID instructors that you will make them proud, and they will be able to gladly say, “These are MY kids.” It is a statement. It is a statement to all those you come into contact with. It says, “You will recognize me. My life does not end at “just good enough.” My life does not end at mediocre. My life does not end at average. My life begins at advanced! Because of that, I have the readiness, the mindset, and the courage to take on my next big chapter: college. And more than college, I have the tools to take on the biggest chapter of them all: life. I can’t say that journey will be easy, but I can surely say that, with the things that AVID has equipped me with, the journey will be worth it!