Apalachee High School class of 2021 valedictorian Ishan Patel gives his speech during the school's graduation ceremony Wednesday, May 26. 

Good evening, families, friends, faculty and the graduating class of 2021. My name is Ishan Patel, and I am proud to stand before you today as this year’s class valedictorian.

I’m going to keep this speech short, because I know most of us just want to graduate and get out of here. If you know me personally, then you probably know that I am the last person you would come to for any sort of life advice, so I’ll save us all the trouble of a generic speech with random advice that I don’t even use. Instead, I would like to give my thanks to a few key individuals who have always given me their full support over my thirteen years in this school system.

First, I want to thank my mom and dad, my sister, my grandparents, and the rest of my big family. My parents sacrificed everything when they moved across the world to build a new life in the greatest country on Earth. Although getting to where I am standing today may seem like a lot of work, it was nothing compared to what my parents had to do just to maintain legal residency in this country. When my mom and dad first got their driver’s licenses two decades ago, there were four words printed directly below the picture: “not authorized for employment.” My parents came here on a business visa and were required to prove that they managed a business in order to stay in the United States. When times got tough, they could not just get a job at the local grocery store; they had to continue running our family business or risk the legal consequences. Thanks to their continued efforts, I am able to stand here today. I will always be grateful to the people who came before me and laid the foundation for me to be successful here.

I also want to thank the entire faculty here at Apalachee. The effort that they have put into getting us all here today has been nothing short of incredible, especially with the challenges of teaching in a pandemic. Many teachers went above and beyond what was required of them after school let out early last year.

Last April, Mrs. Musgrove took out hours of her own time to make goody bags and fully-detailed notes for her AP Stat students, even personally delivering them to our houses right before the exam. Similarly, Mrs. Cannarella spent her time delivering cosmic brownies to her Capstone students in an effort to maintain some sense of normalcy. In addition, our counselors and administrators have had to work extra hard to make sure every student was fully taken care of over this past year. I could not have asked for a more supportive community of educators.

Lastly, I want to recognize the friends who helped me get up here. There are a lot of them, so here they are, in no particular order:

Andrew Howe

Alex Marr

Tauheed Ferguson

Q Hogsett

Dreshaun Jackson

Kaito Hamm

Nick Johnson

Austin Sexton

Joseph Andrews

Gabriel Stevenson

Isaac Budu

Landon Jones

Shawn Johnson

Evan Ma-no-tuhs

Austin Dunlap

Anden South

Andrew Graham

Anthony Bean

Avery Morrell

Abby Bugg

Austin Danser

Corbin Cutter

Fernando Galavez

Jimmy Rayas

Harrison Puckett

Logan Laske

Ethan Mick-Gah-the-ar

Chelsea Nunez

Shawn Powers

Jacob Tyler

And of course, Mr. Andrew Winston.

If I mentioned your name, I want to thank you for your support over the years. You guys pushed me to be the best.

To the class of 2021, I want to end by reassuring you that the American Dream is still alive and kicking. Today, we have two first-generation Americans representing the top of our class. Although today’s world will always encourage you to play the victim card, I can tell you firsthand that it will get you nowhere. Behind every unbreakable person is a story that gave them no choice.

Thank you everybody for coming out tonight, and good luck in all your future endeavors.


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