An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Denisse Aguilar Sarmiento, Class of 2021

Student speaker Denisse Aguilar Sarmiento, selected by peers, recited the following spoken word poem at Commencement 2021 alongside Dash Barnett.

My favorite flowers are Marigolds. 
And my parents told me
Marigolds 
are used during Day of the Dead to honor
and remember those we have lost, 
and their stories. 
Because of this I learned to see Marigolds, 
not as a flower of death or loss, 
but of memory, and memories that we’ve collected result in each of us having our own garden of marigold memories, 
with an array of shades, 
some wilted, 
pitiful gloomy dull colors
some blooming
in beauty that compares to the sun 
and each with its own lesson. 

Lakeside is often viewed as a school for the privileged, a school for kids who growing up had social connections and sometimes a guarantee that their future was assured. People whose marigolds are almost always in bloom, and with the brightest shades of orange and red. And while that is true I know many of you don’t identify that way. 

Many of us, 
are the first to finish high school, 
the first to go to a four-year college,
the first to not have to walk miles to get a subpar education, 
the first-generation kids, 
the low-income student,
the i need financial aid to do this kid, 
the ones struggling to find rides to places for fear of annoying people.
the kids who know true sacrifice because we’ve seen it with our own eyes, 
and maybe some of us have had to sacrifice more than most kids our age would need to.
Our hands graced with the soil that we work with, and calloused from all we've put in.
So when you hold our hands,
don't be surprised by how rough they are
when you know some of our story already. 

I think that it's time that we tell people that we’re here. 
Navigating an environment that most people can’t access.
We've extended ourselves until we’ve been on the verge of snapping, 
and our backs still don't know the sweet relief of an empty backpack free of burden. 
but we're still here. 
We made it. 

We have had to experience 
more hardship than needed. 
The world sent us earthquakes, 
tornadoes, 
and storms, 
to see if we could deal with it, 
to see if our flowers 
could keep themselves rooted 
in the soil we had so carefully planted 
in the belief that we are
and always will be
resilient enough to withstand anything.
And yes some were shredded, 
torn from the ground, demolished. 
But amongst everything that we had lost, 
our garden kept growing 
new flowers 
doubled for every one we had lost. 
Because we know that we ourselves 
are becoming more tenacious 
with everything that is thrown our way.
I am proud of those who believed they wouldn't make it to a sunny day.

Watch as dreams,
of chemical engineers,
Researchers,
Doctors,
Artists,
Musicians,
Lawyers,
Philanthropists,
and slam poets
become real.
We are more than 
people you should feel pity for
admire our strength, versatility 
watch as we engrave
our names into your heart.
As we show you the garden
we are so carefully constructing
we will make you remember us. 

To students who will be the first 
in their families to graduate from high school, 
I am proud of you. 
To the ones who will be the first in their families to go to a four-year college, 
I am proud of you. 
To the students who
had to keep who they truly are
hidden from the world for fear of rejection, 
I am proud of you. 
To the students who battled
depression, anxiety, insomnia
or any other mental or physical illness,
I am proud of you.
To the students 
who managed to multitask
responsibilities,
to the parents who would wake us up when we’ve overslept our alarms, 
whose spines no longer align with their backs
from working too hard,
whose soles have begun to bleed
from standing up too long
and whose eyes bags 
are the color of the dirt
who still made sure we got to school, 
who helped us get that project done
to get from point a to b
who were there for us
helping us reach our dreams
because they know
how much it would have meant 
to have someone do the same for them,
I am proud of you. 
To the people who
maybe had no one to help them at all,
I am proud of you.
To the teachers who had to listen to our complaining about not having a normal senior year, 
and yet still came every day
and joyfully taught us
even when we all wanted
to turn the camera off,
I am proud of you. 
To the first gen students, 
the children of immigrants, 
I am proud of you. 
To the families whose undocumented status 
has made your life more difficult,
I am proud of you. 
I am proud of every single person 
who has done the unimagineable. 
I am proud of you 
because we happen to be the ones who 
were fortunate enough to make it this far, 
to see every single thing 
that we’ve sacrificed come 
to fruition. 

And every dream you thought 
you couldn't reach 
will soon be in the palm of your hand
be a part of who you are
as we blossom into adulthood
and every person 
who ever doubted us
will shake their heads 
at their stupidity
and the things that we all lost 
will finally seem worth it.

Every marigold you see 
when you close your eyes, 
has blossomed. 

To every student in the class of 2021 We are proud of you. 

As we say our final goodbyes, remember to keep your garden of marigold memories near your heart.