Jacky Luong, now a freshman at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), recently graduated from Malden High School. Luong graduated top of his class and had previous accomplishments in high school, including being senior class president. 

 Luong had previously been treasurer for the class of 2020 and “felt invested in being part of the group of students that put together the fundraisers and work that would contribute to the ultimate prom,” which had made him confident in his decision to become president. 

Jacky Luong's senior portrait. Photo submitted by James Valente

In his sophomore year, Luong competed in a robotics competition known as “botball” in which the team placed fifth. His junior year included a math competition, which was the first math competition for Malden High, where he received the top individual score of the day.  Luong was also a part of the YMCA Leaders Club, where he was the secretary and helped plan and fund a Masquerade Ball. In the next Botball Luong and the Robotics Club participated in, they placed first.  Luong had also been a part of the winning tennis team at Malden High his junior year as a first-year varsity player. 

 When Luong found out he was going to be valedictorian the first thing that went through his mind “was the realization that [he] was going to have to write a speech.” He had never thought about having to write a speech hoping that later it would “just come to [him].” Luong had mentioned that every bit of time spent working toward being valedictorian and class president was worth it in every way. He stated that “the work [he] put into [his] classes and extracurricular activities and personal endeavors got [him] into MIT.”   

His favorite part of high school was the people. Luong stated that “it was the people who made [his] high school experience memorable and enjoyable.” Whether it was the tennis team, the people in the clubs he was a part of, “the great teachers [he] had his four years at Malden Hgh” or the people he met in his classes. High school for many people comes with regrets, but for Luong there were no regrets his four years at Malden High. Luong felt that by doing things not “just for the resume” he was able to keep himself interested and be part of everything he wanted to be in high school.

The following is a transcript of Jacky Luong's graduation speech. 

Good evening, everyone.

I want to thank Mayor Christenson, Superintendent Oteri, and Principal Mastrangelo for allowing us to gather here today.

I hope everyone is doing well. For anyone out there who is struggling through this pandemic, know that you’re not alone, and we will all get through it together. 

It is unfortunate that COVID-19 has prevented more beloved staff and faculty as well as friends and family from attending our ceremony this year. In light of this, I would like to start with a moment of appreciation.

Shoutout to Mr. Bowers for his great stories, to Mr. Morrison and Mr. Bazz for their dedication to the Robotics Team and making even a place like Norman, Oklahoma a little less dry, to Ms. Márquez for opening up my eyes to the social issues that plague our world and the importance of being aware of what’s going on around me, to Mr. Marques, who seems to be busy more than 24 hours a day, for recognizing the talents and removing the limits of his students, and to Ms. Quinn for not only being an amazing counselor but also for all the time and effort she put into being our class advisor, even driving to Connecticut a few times for those Krispy Kreme donuts that sold so well—without her, my high school experience would not be the same. 

I’d like to thank all of the wonderful teachers at Malden High School who have made my four years here memorable and for their devotion to teaching Malden students not just knowledge but how to be a better person, I would also like to thank my family for always loving me and working hard to give me their best, even when I didn’t appreciate it until later, and most of all, I would like to thank God for getting me to where I am now and changing me to become who I am today.

Now to the Class of 2020, 

It’s time to move on. You guys know that.

We’ve had our fair share of locked bathrooms and lunch times that felt too short. From this point on, we’re at the wheel and steering our lives ourselves. We’re going to decide what bathrooms we can use, and when we want to have lunch. All of you have the potential to and will succeed, and if doubts stand in your way, then let that push you more to prove them wrong. We are moving on.

But don’t forget where you came from. Don’t forget the supportive friends and staff who made you laugh and helped you mature over the past four years. Don’t forget the great food you had here, like at New York Pizza, or how much you wish you could go to New York Pizza but had to control yourself from the urge. And most of all, don’t forget the people around you.

In the past several months, we’ve witnessed something unprecedented. In the midst of questionable leadership—if you want to call it leadership—and people standing up for themselves against racism in our justice system and our society, it’s easy to lose faith in this country. Under all this conflict, 2020 has been anything but positive. We are experiencing history, but we must make sure our actions are not forgotten or rewritten like the twisted history that we've been spoon fed since a young age, a twisted history that speaks only of America's successes, hiding its shortcomings.

My point is, we are fortunate enough to be in one of the most diverse, if not the most diverse, schools in the state and country. Growing up and being with people from all different cultures and ethnicities, sometimes it’s easy to forget about how socially unjust this country is. It may be because other people out there haven’t had the same opportunity to be exposed to different people, and in that absence, they believe stereotypes and reinforce them. It’s up to us to educate others about the falseness of their stereotypes and correct them. It’s up to us to break down the notions of power and privilege and to break down the barriers of race that are so frequently used to determine who deserves what.

Quarantine hasn't made life easy; keeping everyone apart, it's hard to connect to others and harder to go out to take action on these matters. However, we will pull through on the other side stronger. Even though we are physically separate, we stay connected through social media and Zoom calls. But more importantly, we are united by the fight against racism, and by our collective struggle in this pandemic. We've made it this far, through late nighters and tough teachers, and we're not going to let a crisis like this stop us from making our own mark on the world. 

When you’re out there—*gestures towards some place far away*—whether that’s in college, in the workforce, in the military, or somewhere else, remember to make this society better. It doesn’t take much to make a difference in your community. All around you, there are people who take care of their parents and siblings and people who help out at local events and proudly embrace and show their culture, as you might’ve seen at JVs. When you’re out there, remember to be true to yourself, be inclusive, and welcome anyone who comes your way. Sometimes, just setting the right example is enough to help others do the same.

As the class of 2020, remember that we don't just see the future clearly—we are the future.

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