Grand Island Public Schools
123 South Webb Road
Grand Island, NE 68802
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Alex Costilla's Class of 2019 graduation speech

This is Grand Island Senior High Class of 2019 graduate Alex Costilla's speech to his classmates during commencement on Sunday, May 19.

President of the Board of Education, Bonnie Hinkle; Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Tawana Grover; Principal, Jeff Gilbertson; faculty; parents; family; friends; and the Grand Island Senior High Class of 2019:

Classmates, today is likely a day of finality. This hour will be the conclusion to our high school story, and the introduction to a new chapter. Many parents have been undoubtedly dreading this hour and the bittersweet memories it will bring, while I can attest that countless peers have been literally counting down the days till this very moment on social media. I may have joined in on that in the last few days.

Paulo Coelho claimed that, "In a forest of a hundred thousand trees, no two leaves are alike. And no two journeys along the same path are alike." Students, when you look amongst yourselves, you will find individuals from various walks of life. In our time at GISH, we have been athletes and artists; singers and speakers; dancers and dreamers. Now, we will part ways to become teachers and technicians, engineers and erudites, parents and even presidents. As we diverge paths, we must not forget that we have all come from this one great GISH family tree. It matters not what occupations we pursue, for wherever we go, we will be sure to carry our Purple and Gold with us.

And we all know that these experiences and memories are not limited to the classrooms in which we have received instruction. No. They were fashioned by the sound of clanging iron in Senior High’s weight room. They were ingrained in us by the striking of piano keys, and the serenading of voices. They arose with the screech of coaches’ whistles before the break of dawn, and the glare of stadium lights in the pitch black of night. For some, high school will always be recalled alongside the faint scent of chlorine, the bitter taste of sweat, or the roaring applause of an audience.

This class has witnessed extraordinary achievement in the realms of athletics, academics, and fine arts. But every student here today involved in athletics or extracurricular activities can attest that their achievements would not have come about had they not been instructed by the finest coaches, and the most dedicated of mentors. We would not be here today, had it not been for the patience, love, and support of these guides. These pupils have gleaned from Senior High’s wonderful teaching staff all that they could in their allotted four years, and they have been handed wisdom from teachers since their elementary days. The graduates before you are the compilation of more than a decade’s worth of training and instruction. Our mentors have been the roots that have supplied us with knowledge, wisdom, and, when necessary, discipline, and it is because of their instruction that we have sprouted so high.

Let us not forget, with every tree, there is a trunk. Not the most admired aspect of a tree, but undeniably vital. It is the structure that raises its branches high, and for students, they are those who have loved us. They are those who nurtured us when we were sick, supported us when we struggled with the stress of school, and encouraged us to finish well when terminal senioritis began to set in: moms, dads; grandmas, grandpas; aunts, uncles; friends, and family. They were by our side in every instance. They are the trunk that we have clung to all our lives, and the source that we have progressively branched off of over the last four years.

These people: teachers, coaches, friends, and family, we would not be who we are today had it not been for them. For that reason, today is as much of an accomplishment for them as it is for us. Just remember, if any of us does anything crazy, you were the ones who set us loose on society.

There is one last influence in our lives that deserves credit, for wherever there is a blossoming tree, there will surely be found a crafty vine attempting to stifle its growth. For some of us, that vine was an injury, or a condition. For others, it was a person, or a class. Perhaps for some, this vine is still plaguing day to day life, attempting to suppress any dreams of future success. So you may ask, why do these detrimental vines deserve credit? You see, we have all endured our own respective struggles, and we have all faced adversity of the greatest tiers. But clearly, we are all still here. When analyzed under a different lense, today is not merely a day to celebrate graduation. It is a day to celebrate the fact that we are conquerors. Every student graduating today has a story, and every one of those stories contains an antagonist: something that attempted to keep them from getting to this finish line. But every student present has demonstrated that they would not be deprived of this great success. Every student here has persisted through the struggles of high school, and persevered in this challenging game we call life. We will always remember those that were in our corner during our arduous tribulations, but they were not the factor that shaped us in those moments. Instead, it was the burn of bitter words, the pang of heartbreak, the sting of unbelief, that molded us into the masterpieces that we are today.

I would like to say that this accomplishment marks the cutting off of the final vine, but that would be the greatest deceit told to mankind. On the contrary, today is merely the beginning, and as all of us travel to where we have been called, like leaves being carried by the wind, we will encounter even greater and more challenging strifes. But we make the ultimate decision of whether or not these vines will stagnate our growth, or merely encourage us to blossom. All of us will encounter opposers that want to see us fail. They will stop at nothing to bring us down. They will seek to betray us like Brutus did Caesar, rain destructive words upon our heads, and tell us that we will never witness our dreams come to fruition. But in every instance, the only thing that these individuals should expect us to do, is prove them wrong.

I pray that is exactly what all of you do. Whatever career you may enter; whatever profession you pursue. As you set out alone on this new walk of life, remember those who stood by you, and hear the words of the voices that say you can’t, or you won’t, but do not listen to them.

Prove them wrong.


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