This year has been filled with struggles. So many I can’t even begin to list them. Many of us have responded by burying ourselves in our rooms and hiding our emotions. Trying to hide from the struggle. But we got through it and the best part is we did it together.

The past 3 years, well 4 for most of you, have been hard. Trying to fit in, finding where you belong, finding yourself and making really big decisions that will help build you.

Coming to JM in our sophomore year was difficult. Remember that movie Mean Girls?

Yeah, that's what I expected when I walked into JM my very first day of school. My family and I had just moved from Africa to the United States. Come to find out, everyone else was just as terrified as I was. What a relief!

I learned we are never alone in a situation, because there is always someone who has experienced the same thing or someone currently going through it too and through that we all grow.

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I wish I could say life gets easier but we are leaving a place that has been our home for 4 years and transitioning into another mysterious 4 years in our lives. Beginning another journey of trying to figure out who we are and where we fit in. As our elders always say, “ failures are needed experiences which turn to lessons that make better versions of us.” Remember this as we embark on this journey of self realization

Whatever path it is you have chosen, be it going to college, which is not a requirement, be it taking a year off because it's OK to not have it all figured out or just facing life head on and going for your dreams because why not. I am rooting for you. And if it gets too hard, it’s OK to cry and take a break, but remember to always pick yourself up and move on.

I want to say thank you to all the teachers, especially those who saw more in us than we did in ourselves, that pushed us to better saying you might not see it as help now but when tomorrow comes, it will all make sense. Thank you to the graduating class 2021 who I had most of my classes with and school mates that made school worth attending 5 days a week because trust me, somedays it felt like pure torture.

We live in a world where grades are more important than talent. Not that our grades are not important, of course, they create a way to a better future but there is way more to all of us than says on a piece of paper.

I am wishing you good luck on this adventure into the new series of our lives called ‘adults in training.’ No matter how hard it gets, remember you are not alone and that no matter who you are, where you are from, your skin color, your gender identity, just speak yourself!

Sonia Teh is a graduating senior at John Marshall High School.

Read more Rochester graduation speeches:

James Kung: Victory

Sarah Strauss: The future is ours

Marissa Ding: COVID can't take our Rocket Pride

Maimuna Aden: The power we wield

Zuri Cofer: Explore and take risks