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  • Writer's pictureAngelina Darrisaw

Elementary School Graduation Keynote Address

Last June, I was invited back to my elementary school to keynote the fifth grade graduation. My first grade teacher, Susan Givner, who still works for the school reached out to me and I was honored to come back. My school had a beautiful community and I felt really connected speaking to an audience of fifth graders who grew up with some of the same teachers, neighborhood experiences, and being educated in the exact building where I spent my formative years.

A kind parent shared a video of my speech. Watch a 3 minute segment of the 15 minute speech below.

Here are the 3 tips I shared with the fifth graders that can apply to anyone in spite of age.

  • Don’t allow rejection to cripple you. I saw a quote that said “you weren’t rejected, you were protected.” What may seem like a setback, may be your set up for success. Sometimes when you are rejected, it is to make room for the bigger than you even expected. For years I wanted to be Miss New York. I competed in the pageant three times. Twice I finished as a finalist, but never the winner. I raised money from friends and family to compete. They came to see me in the competition and I lost. It was a public humiliation and I couldn’t understand why I had to go through it. I felt like not only did I fail myself, but I failed my family. I was momentarily defeated but I had a strong foundation and that rejection wouldn’t cripple me. The last year I competed in Miss New York and did not win, was the same year I booked my national ad campaign. I would not have been able to do the campaign if I was Miss NY and that campaign has been one of my greatest life experiences thus far. If I had let rejection cripple me, I would not have been able to move forward on to something bigger and greater.

  • Take some risks! When I was in college, there was an opportunity to study in another country. I was already far from my comfort zone of Brooklyn being in North Carolina, but everyone I respected and trusted kept telling me to take advantage of this unique opportunity. The idea of studying outside of my country, when a flight home would be hard to come by, where internet was unreliable and calls home would be infrequent, where food would be different, even the language might be different, all of that scared me to no end. I was afraid of doing something that pushed me out of the place I felt comfortable. But just like you grow through failure, you grow by being uncomfortable. By mom convinced me that I could not live my life in fear and that if I just prepared myself for the journey ahead, I could face the risk. I studied up on the culture of the countries I was set to attend. I met with people who were from there and asked a lot of questions. I tried the food before I went and I figured out a rhythm for how I would communicate with my mom. I went to Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay for 6 months and the risk I was scared to tackle became a very calculated risk. Prepare yourself, if you need to, for when you leave your comfort zone, but leave it!

  • Believe in Yourself. When you love what you do and truly have a passion for it, work is not a job; it is a part of your lifestyle. You are engaged, excited, self-motivated and you look forward to even the challenges that arise as a part of your career. You know that the tough times are leading you to an end goal that is meaningful to you. Your belief in your success is the most fundamental element of achieving any of your goals. As a track runner in college, I was always told, “Envision yourself crossing the finish line first.” You might not always come out first, but if you can’t even see yourself coming out first, you definitely are not winning that race.

Don’t allow rejection to cripple you, take some risks, and believe in yourself .

Angelina Darrisaw is a trained speaker and workshop facilitator. She specializes in adult audiences and career and personal development programming for high school students. You can request to book here.

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