Together we rise

A letter to the Class of 2021

Good morning everyone, David Shiang here. Just wanted to say a few words today. Right now it’ll be the senior breakfast. We will have just finished the graduation rehearsal, and are probably eating some good food. Just wanted to write a few words to you all as we leave Oak Park and enter a new frontier.

Graduation under any circumstance is admirable and a milestone to be celebrated. Though we have each faced challenges, we have all made it here today. From the early mornings to the late nights, the struggles and triumphs of the past years, we have each grown as individuals and as a community. High school is a period of growth, of confusion and of deciding who we are. We, the Class of 2021, have perhaps faced the most difficult circumstances of any senior class of recent years. Regardless of what life has thrown at us, we have each made the choice to rise together from the ashes and thrive with the strength of eagles.

Time flies. It seems like just yesterday we stepped onto campus for the first time, excited, confused but optimistic. Whether we were from Medea Creek or out of district, we bonded and became friends. That first Membean session, our fingers typing the vocab words we probably forgot by this day; running on the track, panting breath after breath hoping it would just end; wishing we could use Google translate during a language class. Adjusting to high school is no easy task, but we did it well and we did it together.

It takes one small spark to light a fire, which we felt quite literally our sophomore year. Many of us had to evacuate, scared, dazed and confused. The ashes in the air, the smoke constantly blowing showed the brutalness in this world. When we faced the devastating Woolsey Fires, we did not back down. We stood up, looked out for each other and rebuilt our community. We rose together.

Junior year arrived, and it was a difficult year, as we all know. The first half was standard junior year stress. Then came 2020. I’m sure you all know about that…

As the virus swept through our state and our district, we checked in on each other through many snaps, many texts and many calls, staying optimistic the whole way through. Soon we’ll be sitting together, in person on the field, a feat which we may have never thought possible. Our small sacrifices have not been in vain.

Ilana Kern of the senior class of 1984 wrote “Proud and Bold,” a beautiful poem about Oak Park which still holds true to this day:

Proud and bold the Oak Park Eagles

Spirit soaring high

Black and gold our colors flowing

Honor never die.

Oak Park, Oak Park, ever loyal,

Trees of strength on green hills lie.

Let our love be everlasting

Onward, Eagles fly!

Throughout the years we have been bold, loyal and true. Time and time again, through winds, through fire, through the storm, our class, the Class of 2021, has persevered with a spirit of undying hope. We have risen against all odds, and I know that we will again. Fellow seniors, our next steps are soon. Challenges lay ahead. But we are stronger than those challenges. As we move onward into our next chapter, may we always remember that spirit of togetherness, undying loyalty and continuing love within us all. We have risen and we will rise again. Together we rose. 

Together we rise.