Leelah Scales, Valedictorian
Leelah Scales, Valedictorian at Hillcrest High School, considers earning the achievement as the Class of 2022’s top student as a tribute to her family.
“It’s not about the grades, it was about making my family proud,” said the future orthodontist minutes before addressing her fellow classmates and receiving her diploma.
Scales explained that her past four years were not as difficult as many expected thanks to being organized, disciplined and a lot of support from her teachers at the Memphis school.
“It wasn’t really difficult, it was doing what you’re supposed to do, and you would be okay,” said Scales.
“During the last four years I had a wonderful experience with the teachers, it was great. I felt I couldn’t get the opportunity anywhere else. The teachers were very helpful, they would help you with anything to make sure all was great, and you could have a personal problem and they would help.
A'Nyah Jeffries, Salutatorian
A’Nyah Jeffries entered high school set on being among the top of her class at Hillcrest High School so she could get a scholarship to pursue her dreams.
Last May, Jeffries finished as Salutatorian of her class, ready to go to college and become a psychologist, a career she will pursue to honor her grandmother and help others that have had to go through mental health issues.
“There’s a story behind this. My grandmother was mentally affected. She would talk to me from different personalities, and I communicated with her. That’s why I want to study psychology,” explains A’Nyah, who credited her teacher at Hillcrest with being an integral part of her dreams.
Jeffries was one of the 77 Seniors who received their diplomas at Hillcrest’s graduation ceremony. She described her academic experience at the Green Dot school as “wonderful.”
“I had a great relationship with Ms. (Cristina) Austin, she was my principal at first, also Mr. (Teddrick) Estes. The counselors, the whole school had a great vibe for us, welcoming us as freshmen,” said Jeffries.
Here are Scales’ remarks to her fellow students, where she also addressed gun violence.
I am Leelah Scales, valedictorian of Hillcrest High's class of 2022. I am honored to be here today and share this moment worth remembering with every one of you. I have seen this school for many generations, due to my relatives also attending Hillcrest. This school is full of memories and great personalities. I want to give a special thanks to each teacher, counselor, principal, staff member, and CSO that helped pave the way to what Hillcrest is today.
These four years have not been easy, but I kept pushing through my trials and tribulations. It was never just about a spot for me, but instead I set goals and made sure to make my mother proud. No matter where you are seated or standing in this auditorium today, just know before you leave here, that you have a purpose. Keep persevering and become who you want to be. There's only one you, just make sure it's the genuine you. This is only the beginning of who we will all become.
My mother, who I also want to give the greatest thanks to, is the main reason I am who I am today. Even through stress and financial hardships, she stayed a strong, black, and proud woman. I just want to let you know you are very appreciated.
I would also like to bring awareness to one major issue here in the African American community. The issue is gun violence and black on black crime. It's truly sad to see that after we were all free from slavery, we were still enslaved by a slave’s mentality, killing each other, and consistently being separated. We need to put down the guns and our fists, and instead open our hearts and minds. We need to become what Black really is meant to be. Black is strong and beautiful and needs to be portrayed as such. We need to hear more about black entrepreneurship and excellence. I have faith that if we all wake up and come together, we will no longer be considered the minority and the modern stereotype of what Black is. We must own who we truly are and make a change. Thank you.
Here is A’Nyah’s message to her fellow graduates.
Welcome to A’Nyah’s 101
I want to start off by acknowledging that this has been an amazing senior year. We all have been waiting for this moment. I am aware that the senior year has had its fair share of conflicts, but we all still did what we were determined to do which is to GRADUATE. When I finally became a senior, I thought it was going to be hard getting advice from others and hearing their stories. I had to understand everyone’s battles aren’t the same.
My senior year was delightful even with the obstacles that were included in my journey. I learned to stay positive within myself. I have seen so many of my classmates blossomed during their time at Hillcrest. I have seen the hard work, dedication, and gratitude. I want to thank everyone who helped me along my journey, I love you all dearly. If I didn’t have my mom and Ms. TJ in my corner, I wouldn’t have continued on my path with a positive mindset and attitude. I also want to thank Ms. Hogan for always telling me to thrive and never give up. I am truly proud of myself for making it this far.
I am grateful for having the individuals that have been in my corner. In the words of Maya Angelou,” COURAGE is the most important of all the virtues because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically but nothing consistently without courage.” So, what I want to say to all of you is to never doubt yourself no matter what’s happening in your life.
To my fellow underclassmen I want to leave you a message, “just train the mind and the body will follow.” That’s the end of A’Nyah’s 101.
Class of 2022 is dismissed.