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Excerpted from the 2019 Moving-Up Ceremony Keynote Speech by Yosandy, 8th grader at WHEELS

Good morning students, teachers, parents, friends, and other visitors. Welcome to the Moving-Up ceremony for the class of 2023!

In our years at WHEELS, we’ve all been through various adversities and triumphs. We have learned that even if there are obstacles in the way, we should not let them stop us. We need to persevere because when the challenges are done, the successes will appear.

This 8th-grade year has been a journey. Toward the end of the year, we had the opportunity to celebrate our growth through Passage Presentations [where students present to teachers and family members a portfolio of their work that demonstrates their growth over time]. We looked back at our accomplishments throughout our years of middle school and reflected on how we have improved and our goals for our future.

For my presentation, I chose to talk about Democracy. When I first started learning about this concept in 7th grade Social Studies class, it seemed really straightforward and simple: people have a say in government, there’s not one person that rules it all.

However, I soon learned that the Founding Fathers left a lot of people out of our democracy. They didn’t include all the people, such as people of color and women.

I was confused, isn’t that really hypocritical?!

By the end of 8th grade, I noticed that our democracy still needs to improve and is not as perfect as some make it seem. I realized that even though our democracy can change for the better, it still gives us the right to speak up and have a say in government. We have a right to question the justice system, the immigration issue, the rise of poverty, and much more.

We students have to take advantage of having the freedom to express ourselves and use our voices because they were given to us for a reason! Once we become 18 we need to vote because every vote makes a difference, even if it’s just one. Many people fought for us to vote and by us not doing so, we aren’t being appreciative of all the struggles they went through.

Even before we turn 18, we can make a difference! We just have to simply speak up.

Reflecting on the evolution of democracy and my own understanding helped me prepare for my Passage Presentation, and I realized that as we become high school students, part of our job is to listen, ask questions, and to innovate.

Now as we’re moving up to a new chapter in our lives, know that you’ve made an important step closer to your goals. Think of it this way: we’re 4 years away from finishing high school and starting our life as adults. 4 years may seem like a long way, but little do you know that those 48 months will pass by in the blink of an eye. Throughout our high school years, we can stay true to our goals, organize, and help our community advance and come together.

I would like to thank friends, family, teachers, and all those who have helped us get to where we are today. I can say that we won’t disappoint you! We’ll make it and when you see us at the top, you’ll see the greatness we have achieved.

Congratulations Class of 2023!

Yosandy delivered this speech at her Moving-Up Ceremony, which was hosted by the Today Show and held at Rockefeller Plaza! 

WHEELS on the Today Show

Watch part of WHEELS’ Moving-Up Ceremony on the Today Show!

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