Tonight, my school had its annual event to recruit 8th graders. I had the privilege of giving the opening remarks to an auditorium of 800 potential students and parents. My written out speech is below. (Not a transcript.)
Good evening everyone, and welcome to Bellaire High School! I’m Amy Fan, and I’m currently a senior here. Show of hands–how many of y’all have come to Bellaire before? And who’s here for their first time? Alright everyone put their hands down.
So I’ve been trying to figure out how to explain my experience at Bellaire to an auditorium of 800 people, and I think the best way to do it is by giving advice.
My first piece of advice is: Talk to people. And this sounds simple, but let me tell you a story. When I was at Cardinal Kickoff my freshman year, this same event three years ago, I was at the booth for one of my clubs. When I was describing my club to an 8th grader, I got told: “Dude, calm down. Why do you sound so nervous?” Trust me, when you get to high school, the last thing you want happen is to have a middle school student telling you that you suck at your job.
It didn’t help that there was a Houston Chronicle reporter interviewing two students. One of them was the student body president and the NHS president AND also happened to be an amazing dancer. The other was a national level debater, incredibly eloquent, student body secretary and president of multiple clubs already. As a sophomore.
And so I was left with this paralyzing sense of fear, of uncertainty. Like, did I really belong? Was I capable of actually becoming one of these people?
This leads me to my second piece of advice: Embrace the fear. Embrace that uncertainty, in my case, embrace that awkwardness. You know how people enjoy riding roller coasters because of the fear? I began treating that sense of nervousness like riding a roller coaster.
If you’re ever debating whether to talk to someone or whether not to talk to someone, talk to them. Obviously, this applies right now, when you’re about to meet the 102 student organizations at Bellaire, but it’s pretty universal. Say hi to people in the halls. Ask your teacher the tiny question. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, talk to someone. Personally, I never liked reaching out to adults. I’ve always talked to friends more. On the other side, if someone talks to you, listen to them. Be a good person.
Tonight, you’ll see the loudest and the proudest of Bellaire, but I think there’s something to be said for the smaller day to day things. I’m currently the speaker of the HISD Student Congress, which advocates for students having more of a say in their education since we spend over 16,000 hours in the classroom. Anyways, I hear a lot of complaints from students, from schools all over the city, good schools and not so good schools, diverse schools and not so diverse school. And what really stuck with me was “I wish adults at my school trusted the students”.
And this is something that’s intangible, but at the same time, it’s also very, very real. You can see it in:
- The fact that Bellaire lets 100 student organizations run around
- The freedom we get in choosing our classes
- The conversations between administrators and students in the halls
- The teachers who leave their rooms open during lunch for tutorials, or just for a place to eat.
[Yes, I left this as a list, because this was the only list I thought that I’d have to reference]
I’d like to end with a piece of advice I heard once in a podcast, which is to “Pick the life path that leads to the most interesting stories.” The best stories don’t involve doing everything right the first time. They don’t involve not doing anything at all. The best stories leave something with the reader. They change the main character. They’re different and special and unique. And from my story at Bellaire, I can confidently tell you that Bellaire will give you all the resources to create an interesting story of your own.
Again, welcome to Bellaire, and now, I’d like to introduce you to our principal. Thank you.
- 15 minutes before my speech, someone pointed out that my shirt was on backwards. Good thing they caught it before and not after.
- A good number of people told me that I did well afterwards, but I don’t know if they were doing it to be nice, or if they actually meant it. Before, I would obsess over this (a lot), but now, I don’t even care. If I’m getting undeserved praise, then so be it.
- I used to not put much preparation in a speech and then obsess for days after I finished talking, regretting that I wasn’t more prepared. Now, I realized that not that many people will remember what I say, and that unless I do really well or I do really poorly, no one’s going to care.
- I was totally planning on writing a 100% scripted speech, but I ended up not really following said script much. Writing everyone out was important though.
- Having those 15 minutes before the event started to give my speech to an empty auditorium really, really helped. I could get used to the sound of my voice. Speaking into that microphone the first time to an empty audience was scarier than delivering the actual speech to all 700 people.
- About the performances after my speech that generated much more energy and applause: Performance artists all have this need to be seen, this love of performing that radiates through. And it’s attractive. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: When I like a school, it’s usually because I admire the confidence and ease in which the people there carry themselves. It’s not really about the school itself. (I first noticed this while on college tours.)