Pilar Muhammad '07 Delivers Graduation Address

On Tuesday, June 19 the Class of 2018 celebrated the completion of their work at The Parkside School. Alumna Pilar Muhammad, Class of 2007 gave the graduation address. Here is the transcript of her speech: 

I want to thank Parkside for having me. Mrs. Ament was actually my teacher in 5th grade and she was one of the best teachers I have ever had.

When Ms. Miller and Ms. Thorne first approached me to be a speaker at this year's graduation, I immediately said yes. No second thought was needed. Ms. Miller and Ms. Thorne did so much for me during my time at Parkside, helping me become the person that I am today, that I would do just about anything they asked me. It didn’t occur to me until about three months later that I would actually have to write and deliver a speech. A speech that I feel vastly unqualified to make, giving advice to the graduates of Parkside and letting parents know that their kids will be ok. Even now as I stand up here I don’t feel qualified to make this speech and tell you that it’s going to work out. But, after reassurance from my parents, family, and the mom I babysit for, I feel a little bit more up to the task. Plus, if Ms. Miller and Ms. Thorne think I am qualified, I must be.

Now, I know what you parents must be thinking “who is she and why is she giving my kid’s graduation speech?” And honestly, that's a valid question. My name is Pilar Muhammad, I’m a 2nd semester senior majoring in criminal justice at Quinnipiac University, and I graduated from Parkside in 2007. Parkside helped build me into the person I am today and I would be nowhere without this school. So parents, you made a good choice by sending your kids to Parkside. Probably one of the best choices you will ever make for them. They will be ok and will always have Parkside to fall back on. They will accomplish great things and be the best person they can be.

Being a kid with a learning difference is extremely hard, not just because you struggle with reading, writing, doing math, spelling, staying still, or whatever your disability is, but... because you are scared. Parkside is a safe place where we were told that we can do anything we want if we put our minds to it, and that’s right, we can. But, the world outside Parkside is going to try and tell us different. So, parents, I ask you, please be patient with us. We’re trying but we are scared.  Sometimes we are frustrated for what appears to be no reason. Sometimes we won’t be able to sit still. Doing our homework right after school may not work for us, and homework while watching TV may prove to be helpful. We have different ways of doing things, and that's ok. You don’t know the struggle going on inside of us, but let us figure out the best way for us to learn and complete a task. Trust us, we can do it on our own but will always call when we need help. When you’re frustrated with us for whatever reason, remember, we are probably frustrated with us to. So, be kind, be patient, be supportive, be the parents we know and love.

Being a kid with a learning difference is extremely hard. Being a parent to that kid? Probably harder. I know that being 10 years old you can’t possibly understand how your parents have it harder then you, but trust me, they do. Think about something you love. Now, think about sending it into the world without you. Would you worry? Would you be scared? Would you feel like part of your heart was torn out and walking around without you? Of course you would, and that is how your parents are feeling. They are worried, they are scared, and they want you to be great, they want you to be ok. So graduates, be kind to your parents. They may frustrate you, make you cry, punish you for no good reason, but they want the best for you. They love you more than themselves. They let you out into the world, into a world that is cold and cruel, and they just want you to be ok. My parents, Lisa and Ozier, are two of the most annoying people on the planet. But they are also two of the best, two of the kindness, two of the most loving, and two people that always want the best for me. They are two of my favorite people in the world and I would be nowhere without them. Graduates, your parents loves you even when you’re mean to them and they will always be there for you. But remember, they have their bad days too, they have their fears and their worries. They may be superheros to us, but they are also just people who make mistakes. Parents, I want to reassure you again, your kids will be fine.

In 2007 when I was making my 5th grade graduation speech I did not think I would be standing here again 11 years later. I didn’t know I would be a senior in college with job prospects and I surely didn’t know that I would be ok. So, your kids are going to be fine, in fact, they’ll be great. Of course they will make mistakes and have bad days and it may take them a while to do certain things, but they will be ok.

Graduates, I know that you are probably all excited for summer and to be middle school students, and I’m almost done, trust me. The chances are that some of you weren’t paying attention to a single word I said. You were in your own head, bored, squirming in your seats, or hoping that I would be finished soon so you can go home and play video games. For those of you that were paying attention, you’ll probably forget this by the time you’re in high school. I don’t remember a single thing that my graduation speaker said, I don’t remember a single thing I said during my 5th grade graduation. But, I wish I did. There was probably some great advice in there. So, to make life simple, here are a few pieces of advice that I, an old Parkside grad, want to share with you:

  1. Be kind to one and other. There is enough hate in this world to last a lifetime. You guys have to be kind to each other. Don’t judge people on their race, gender, gender identity, religion, ethnicity, or anything else. People may be mean to you, but you need to be nice.
  2. Be kind to your parents. They want what is best for you and love you unconditionally. Work with them. Help them. Collaborate with them to make you the best you.
  3. Talk. Don’t be afraid to talk. Talk to each other, talk to therapists, talk to teachers, talk to those with different opinion. Just talk.
  4. Stand up for what you believe in. Fight for it. Even if you are the only person in the room, stand up for what you believe in, so that those who can’t have a voice.
  5. Have dreams, reach for them, but be realistic. My dream is to be a tv or movie actress, but, I was told that I had to be realistic. That doesn’t mean I gave up but that means that I have a backup plan. Backup plans are great!
  6. It’s okay to fail. Failure is part of learning. So, if you fail that test or that essay, don’t dwell too much on it. Ask for help or ask what you can do better next time.
  7. It’s okay to ask for help. Ask for as much help as you need. Even the most successful people in the world need help.
  8. It’s okay to apologize. It’s okay to be wrong and it's okay to admit you were wrong.
  9. A grade is not everything. It’s not. It does not determine your worth or your happiness.
  10. Try, try your hardest and that will always be good enough.
  11. Its ok to need a mental health day. It’s okay to need a break. It’s okay to have emotions. It’s ok to be angry, or happy, or cry, no matter your gender.
  12. Express yourself. However you do it, express yourself. Don’t hold anything in.
  13. Do what is best for you, not best for others.
  14. Finally, live with no regrets. Do that extra hour of studying, go to the waterpark with your friends, spend time with your parents, build a fort with you little brother. Have. No. Regrets.

And with that, I am done. Hopefully I didn't mess it up too badly. Congratulations to all the graduates. I can’t wait to see what you guys do next.

Thank you.