Dylan Ruiz is a 2020 graduate of U.S. Grant High School in Oklahoma City. Though he recognizes the grief and frustration his fellow 2020 grads have faced this year in missed milestones, he recently challenged his classmates to rethink their perspectives, consider their blessings and focus on their bright futures.
I am aware that many of you are devastated about the alterations being made to our graduation. We are filled with many questions that cannot be answered at the moment. Questions that lead us to more questions such as, “ Will we have a graduation?,” “Are we really going to be the first class to graduate on a computer?” or “Is our senior year really over, just like that?”
If we ask ourselves these questions then it is crucial for us to ask ourselves these questions as well: “Did I do what was expected of me or did I go beyond that?,” “What makes the class of 2020 so great?” and, most importantly, “ What does it mean to be a high school graduate?”
Many of us are grieving over the loss of opportunity and recognition while others are grieving over the loss of a loved one due to COVID-19. Some of you even justify your grievance through your ‘hard work,’ a term used very loosely in education.
Our disposition in life has made society view our high school graduation to be the only achievement we will ever accomplish. That for a southside kid, high school will be the top of the mountain and everything afterward will only be a catastrophic decline. By begging for our graduation we are proving right those who have belittled us, mocked our families and pitied our communities. In their minds they are thinking, “Look at them. They are willing to put in jeopardy the lives of, not just others, but their loved ones to prove that graduating is their ultimate goal in life.”
This is our chance to show the world that we are better than that.
We are the class of 2020, the class that could see their future clearly but we have blinded ourselves in our own selfish desires. Not only are we part of the class of 2020, we are the U.S.Grant Class of 2020. People like to be seen as who they wish to be rather than be known for who they are. High school graduation has been something many have followed by tradition, but this is our chance to leave a precedent in history that will mark us as the greatest class.
When the world shows its true face by asking for help we show ours by the way we respond. Imagine being known as the U.S. Grant Class of 2020, the leaders of the future who gave up their graduation for the betterment of others and held no regrets whatsoever. The generals who led future generations toward the service of others and demonstrated that life can take away opportunities but it can never take away the character of those who have faced adversity head-on countless times. The ones who knew that the real virtue of their hard work stood in front of them in the mirror every day under the times of the quarantine.
My fellow classmates, I hope you can realize that the moments in history that mark your graduation are not determined by a diploma but by the name on the diploma. That you realize every high school event, pep rally, spirit week, performance, sport and even the classes would’ve been meaningless without you being there.
Destruction brings devastation but it also breeds creation; this is our year to bring back the value of being a general. We must be ready for whatever comes next and use it to create new opportunities, not grieve over lost ones. We must be considerate and respectful toward those who are deprived of the luxury of staying home with their loved ones and be responsible enough to know what is best for ourselves and our community. We need to be the best example of what the class of 2020 is truly made of –Generals heading toward the future.
Ruiz heads to the University of Oklahoma this fall to pursue a degree in industrial engineering. A leader in every sense in his high school years, Ruiz was named the school’s 2020 Student of the Year, was a member of the OKC Thunder and Sam Presti’s Forward Thinking Leadership Development Program, president of OU Upward Bound, a member of National Honor Society and a member of the school’s track, cross country and wrestling teams. Ruiz, who encapsulates the DREAMer spirit, spoke with then-presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke when he visited U.S. Grant last fall about his experiences as an undocumented immigrant, brought to the United States as an infant by loving parents who sought more for their child. Look for more about this Super Kid of the Metro in an upcoming issue of MetroFamily.