An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Iris O. '24

Hello everyone, as you heard my name is Iris O. and I’m an 8th grader. I don’t know about you, but I already want to go back to vacation. No I’m just kidding, I am actually incredibly honored and excited to be here, and though I do love to be at the beach, I simply can’t believe that I am here to welcome you all to the 2019-2020 school year!

I have only been at Lakeside for one year. Nevertheless, even after this short period of time I feel like I really belong here. Which is quite surprising because in most schools that I have been to in the United States, just because I am an immigrant I have been considered an outsider. But, in Lakeside I have found a community that I am accepted into. Before I could write this speech, I spent a good chunk of time wondering what I should include or exclude, but in the end I settled for just being honest with all of you. So, I would like to share about three important aspects of Lakeside and why this school matters so much to me.  

First off, I would like to point out how in comparison to other schools that I have gone to - in parts of Turkey, or in Seattle - Lakeside has had the strongest community. Despite the fact that inclusiveness is a part of the community expectations, or accounting for the fact that Lakeside Middle School is one of the most diverse schools that I have been to, everyone is naturally friendly. Regardless of what race, ethnicity, class, gender, culture, or friend group that you belong to.

For example, in the previous Middle School that I went to, although I was fluent in English, due to the fact that I am Turkish and that I have different values and culture, people would label me as an outsider. Even in elementary school this occurred. Though I made friends in the schools that I went to in Istanbul, I never quite belonged here. However, from the first moment that I came to Lakeside, the students and teachers were all so welcoming, understanding, and open, I instantly felt that I belonged. Anytime I was confused, or even when I just felt down, my friends, classmates, and even teachers were there for me, creating a strong community. 

In addition to this, Lakeside is a place where you grow intellectually, as well as personally. For example, in the beginning of last year I couldn’t speak a single word of Chinese, but by the end I was delivering an animal report in front of the whole class, as well as being able to carry a conversation in this wonderful language. Also, I am a major perfectionist, and I would overthink every single assignment. But after the assistance of Ms. Hilary Myerburg, and, the amazing Ms. Marissa Reed, I began to conquer this issue. Lastly, in the beginning of the year I was highly impatient, however, my wonderful Personal Development teacher, Ms. Yvette Avila, taught me how to be mindful of my actions. And by the end I overcome some of my flaws.

These are a mere fraction of ways Lakeside has bettered me in one year, demonstrating my growth as well as the dedication of all the teachers here at Lakeside, whose only goal is to help you reach your full potential. These examples also show how much the curriculum, propels you to learn and grow. Though the classes are demanding, such as how a biology exam can cost students their sleep, how the stress of a math test can ruin one weekend, or even how memorizing your lines for a play can come at the expense of your family time, Lakeside contributes to building one’s character which sets you up for a more successful and enjoyable life.

Lastly, I would like to highlight how Lakeside is an open environment to be who you are. Personally, I have always been concerned about how others view me. I am scared that people will judge me because I am different from them, just because I am an immigrant. I was always self-conscious about the way I stood, the way I carried myself, the way I talked, or even how I smiled. I felt that if I made any mistakes to prove I was weird in any way people would automatically just shut me out. However, because Lakeside is such an open and supportive community, it has allowed me to build confidence to embrace who I truly am, and also to help me find what matters. I am not scared of being myself, I am not scared of being an outsider, I am not scared of being weird, or silly, or to have different opinions.

I now proudly display my values, and the fact that I am Turkish. I would also like to draw attention to Lakeside Middle School’s gay pride week. To it’s wonderful diverse staff and faculty members. To the affinity and alliance groups, and Personal Development, in which we talk about each person's identity and how that affects their experiences, values, and viewpoints. And finally, to the Queer/Straight Alliance where you are open to be whoever you are. Ultimately, and I know I have stated this before, but it really is true, regardless of your ethnicity, race, gender-orientation, class, or culture you can get along well with almost everyone at Lakeside due to the fact that everyone is open and accepting.

In conclusion, Lakeside is a secure and loving community, where you are open to be yourself, and improve as a person in the process. Thank all of you so much for listening!