Graduation Alumnus Speech | Zion Thomas ’13 (MICDS ’19)
Hello! I’m Zion Thomas, a 2013 City Academy alumnus, and a recent graduate of MICDS, headed to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio this Fall. Let me begin by saying congratulations…to all of you. Today marks a significant milestone in your lives, a resolution to your story as you close this chapter and begin anew. You all are entering a very transformative and impressionable time. I know because six years ago I sat where you sit today. I, hesitantly, took that first step into the future of my education. Why hesitant? Well you see, I was apprehensive about entering a new space and being subject to increasing demands and even higher expectations. And naturally, I questioned my abilities to perform. I feared that I wouldn’t be able to make a name for myself in middle school and beyond, that I would forever remain within the shadow of my older sister who seemed to be doing well for herself at MICDS. I was afraid of the possibility that what I had to offer might not be good enough.
However, through self discovery, I realized that doubt has the incredible ability to enter your mind at the worst moments possible, and that it is imperative that you do not let it get in the way of your hopes and successes. If it had, I would not have been captain of the varsity wrestling team for three years. If it had, I would not have traveled to Iceland this spring on a scientific global learning trip because I never would have filled out the application to be considered. If it had, I would not have walked into that theater and auditioned for my first musical….ever….landing the lead role. Three musicals, four plays and four lead roles later, here I am. You see, doubt is a follower, it follows, it lingers, and it takes power away from you. Once you let it, you will begin to see real world repercussions in the form of missed opportunities. When doubt begins to enter in, you must try your hardest to believe that you are good enough! Why? Because you have been prepared for the challenges and opportunities that are coming your way. This place, City Academy, does an excellent job in birthing possibility. For example, had it not been for City Academy, I probably never would have been a part of Afriky Lolo, a nationally acclaimed West African dance company where I learned to further express myself. CA is also where my love of science was nurtured and where it blossomed. It’s where I learned to love stars, guiding me to an astronomy major in college.
I have faith that each one of you, right now, has the capacity to be as successful as you want in whatever it is you choose…because you are good enough! I say, “as you want” because that part is up to you. I am here to encourage you and tell you how great you are for making it to this milestone, but you have to realize that victory does not come from potential alone. The fact that you are good enough does not in and of itself birth success.
It’s a combination of potential and hard work. The type of hard work you’ve committed yourself to here at City Academy. Tackling the challenging literary world by delving into To Kill a Mocking Bird in 6thgrade or studying for your science test or preparing for that violin recital. Hard Work often happens behind the scenes, it’s the stuff that not many people see. To reach the pinnacle of your success you must do what it takes to raise yourself higher than the rest. I wasn’t the captain of the wrestling team just because I had it in me. Many on the team had it in them. However, I paid attention to my coaches and watched a little closer, I stayed at practice a little longer, and I pushed myself a little harder and until I was able to… go further. When it came to theater, many people believed that I was a pop-up talent, that I came out of nowhere with no training and miraculously developed. What they didn’t know is that from age eight to fourteen I was in acting class after acting class preparing myself for success on the countless number of Nickelodeon and Disney channel auditions that were afforded me. That is the work that no one sees. The type of hard work that aided me in the opportunity to be a two-time Varsity Wrestling State Qualifier and most recently to receive a nomination for Best Leading Actor by the St. Louis High School Musical Theater Awards affording me an opportunity to perform at the Fox on June 2nd. I share all of this with you not to boast on my own accomplishments, but to say that if Zion Thomas, a doubtful sixth grade student from City Academy, can do it, so can YOU! Due to City Academy’s sound foundation and continued support, the love and care I have received from my family, and the grace of God, I have lived my life as if nothing is impossible! The same can be true for you. I believe that you are destined for greatness, but a friend once told me that “God’s will requires your own work.” The question isn’t whether you deserve to be on the level of excellence you will inevitably achieve. The question is how do you prepare and challenge yourself to reach new levels. Congratulations, class of 2019. You are joining a group of alumni who champion your successes and are here to support you and your endeavors. Welcome to this ever-growing community, you have arrived and you should be proud! Thank you!