To the Hawkins Class of 2016…


I have been thinking about this day for the past 4 years. It has been this sort of dream like sequence that I have played in my head to symbolize a sort of Rites of Passage, not only for you as graduates but for us “as educators.” You see, your journey has helped to define who we are. Your narrative helps write our collective identities as teachers but also helps define the very institution that is Hawkins. And as such, the culmination of your time in our classrooms and on campus is the closing of an important part of our lives too.

It is this chapter coming to a close that often prompts deep reflection. When I look at each and everyone of you, at every turn I see evidence of your energy and passion. It is this soul of the class of 2016 that breathed an entire school community into existence. I thank you for that. 4 years ago, the Schools for Communtiy Action were still just ideas in their infancy. 4 years ago we invited you to dream with us. Today, at the end of your all’s high school journey, the dream is so much more than we could’ve hope for. 

For the students of the Responsible Indigenous Social Entrepreneurship small school (RISE), the last 4 years saw young people grow into an empowered social consciousness that inspired student action in the form of  neighborhood market conversions, voter registration drives, and felony expungements for Communtiy members. The mantra echoed in a call and response format honoring ancestral traditions of our past, also epitomized our core values. As graduates tonight you issued a statement that resonates with all who come into contact with these powerful words because with these words you invite others to dream and to fight with you. Who rise? WE RISE!!! 

For the CHASvocates the last 4 years have similarly been spent deeply unpacking and examining issues of Community Health and Advocacy.  As young people you have already made an everlasting and real impact on people’s lives. From waging campaigns to ban the sale of tobacco to minors and raising the minimum wage, to forging real partnerships with Communtiy organizations dedicated to training and fighting alongside you in the struggle for adequate Communtiy resources and real holistic health, you all have proved that good people still truly hold the power when they are organized and driven by love.  

And to my very own game changers. The students in the Critical Design and Gaming School have been busy the last 4 years expanding their imaginations to incorporate dreams of a world where games and play, that which is essential for humanity, need not be sacrificed for social justice. In fact you demonstrated many times that one is often the path towards understanding the other more deeply. From imagining and designing possibilities for  more sustainable landscapes to creating media messages that implore critical thought and inspire action, you have helped us change the game of education. 

Despite becoming comfortable and proud of your small school identities, the last 4 years has often seen Hawks of all schools come together to combat the issues that touch us all.  Understanding that mass incarceration and the school to prison pipeline are very real systems that provide barriers for those that came before and hose that will follow, RISE, CHAS, and CDAGS students led the charge to Fight for the Soul of our cities and demand that our school district end its ties with the federal 1033 program and apologize to the communities. You succeeded. You trailblazed a path towards Restorative Justice and have demonstrated what those practices look and feel like when fully implemented at a school site, a commitment to transformation within and throughout a community. 

And yet despite all of these amazing accomplishments and battles, there are still many to be waged and won. This election season will mark the first that you will be able to participate in and hopefully not the last. Continue to throw your voices into the uncertainty of the future, believing that it will matter… That it is the only thing that ever makes a difference. The fight against or to realize both Trump and Hilary’s vision of America has to be tempered by your vision of America and must involve your commitment to social justice. 

As many of you enter college campuses, remember that those institutions of higher learning are just as rife with inequities and injustice, sometimes of the most egregious one can experience.  Continue to collectively put pressure on powers that be to acknowledge existence and evils of rape culture. Stand up and fight for your right to the college education that you want and deserve.  

I can’t truly state how proud and grateful I am that you all have allowed me to be a part of your journey. Some of you I’ve known since 6th grade, when you blessed the classroom of my life partner and best friend. We both continue to recall how special you were back then and how you’ve grown into wonderful and powerful young adults. Despite all the challenges we may have faced together and those set to face you in the coming years, I am reminded of our keynote speaker at our first Hawkins graduation, Luis Rodriguez. He reminded us of the necessity for maintaining a #criticalhope. This is what I have for you all as you make your way in the world and leave the comfort of our nest. And I will echo the sentiment of last night’s keynote message: #dontforgetwhereyoucamefrom. For we will never forget you. Good luck. God speed. And remember to always do good things. 

 Continue to always:

  1. Be respectful
  2. Be intelligent
  3. Be dignified 
  4. Be empowered 
  5. Be resilient 

Con amor y mucho cariño

Gomez

#LETSGOOOOOHAWKS!!!

photo cred: Nancy Se