Ricky to All: Thank you for coming tonight to share this experience with the Graduating class of 2011. Thank you for sharing our excitement and our fear in leaving the hallways of Grant High School where we’ve lived for the past four years. And before I go on…I didn’t know anything about that Governor’s award, and I don’t know who to thank for that, but thank you I really appreciate it. I guess everyone knows what a messed up life I’ve had. Even the Governor. I have had a messed up life. My dad is in prison and I don’t want to share the details, but he deserves to be there. He was and is a horrible person, and I am still working at forgiving him. I remember thinking on the way to my first day of Kindergarten, Thank god I would be out of my house for a whole eight hours. Only I got there and found out that Kindergarten was just half a day. I was a very disappointed five-year-old, but still, half a day was better than nothing. School was a life line for me. And it’s a lifeline for kids like me. And there are plenty of them. I attended so many schools before I got here, I don’t even know if I remember the names of all of them. Yet I remember the names of some of the students, and I was surprised to see some of them here at Grant High School when I came here in the ninth grade. I have never even acknowledged you in the hallway, because I was hoping you’d forgotten me. And whether you forgot or you just didn’t want to embarrass me, I want to thank some of you for changing my world when it was a dark place to live. Thank you, Tyler Duvurnay for giving me half your lunch for most of the third grade. Thank you, Austin Shardo, for letting me live in your tree house for at least a week during the fourth grade before you told your parents. Thank you, Julia Coloso, for stealing your brother’s jacket and giving it to me during one really cold winter in the fifth grade. And I want to apologize to your brother if he’s here to see you graduate tonight because I remember that your parents took away his TV for a month. I’ve gotten a lot of help from a lot of students, and of course, a lot of help from some really wonderful teachers. Like Miss Rainey who taught me to read , like Mr. Salenetti, who suggested I learn to play drums to vent my anger, like Ms. Quinn, who was not the first to call social services, but the first to find someone who could really protect me. And then when I got here, the first teacher I ran into was our band director Mr. Sedlack. Mr. Sedlack taught me early on that I might be a fairly talented drummer, but I was nothing unless I got that I was one part of a larger group. He’s the guy who may have finally cracked my head open enough that some light finally started getting through to me as far as what all this education was for. It’s for changing the world. For making the world a better place. And that’s what teachers do, one student at a time. I am, or was, but one part of the larger group making music in our high school band.I am but one neighbor making up my neighborhood. One citizen making up this country, one human being residing in the world and trying to change it. We are all part of something greater than ourselves. No matter how good we are, or how lousy, we are all part of humankind. And we’ve all experienced the good and the not so good. On the good side, I want to thank my parents for rescuing me from the world of foster care and giving me a real family and a shot at life. And I want to thank my birth mother for surviving my dad’s abuse and for getting sober and for caring for me now, because it’s never too late for a parent to care about a child. Thank you. All three of you. And I also want to thank Mr. Boykewich, who took an interest in me and in helping me. Thank you for my job and for believing in me. We all have the opportunity every day to believe in someone, to learn from someone, to love someone. Amy Juergens has taught me what I just couldn’t grasp for so many years, and never got from any book or in any classroom, and that’s this. I am capable of loving someone, and I am capable of being loved.And now tonight for the first time maybe, I don’t feel isolated from the rest of you, or from the rest of the world. I feel part of you, and I feel that you are all part of my life and together we can really make a difference.
Ricky to Amy: Amy, would you mind coming up here? Amy Juergens will you marry me?
Amy to Ricky: (laughing) Yes!