Orlanda Dos Santos, Dearborn’s Salutatorian, Class of 2017

Orlanda Dos Santos

Salutatorian, Class of 2017

Good evening everyone. Thank you for being here tonight to celebrate the first graduating class of Dearborn STEM Academy.

I moved to United States from Praia, the capital of Cape Verde two days after I turned 10 years old. I had just completed 4th grade. In Cape Verde, education was important to my family and I; however, for most students in Cape Verde, after high school there weren’t many options.  And for those who had a college education, there were limited career opportunities.  My mother told me as I was leaving that I would understand why I had to leave one day, but at the time I was lost and confused, thinking, how would I survive without my mother who had always been there for me? I love my mother, but I barely knew my father and stepmother, who I was going to live with.

In Boston, months went by and I started to adapt to a new country, language and environment… Then my stepmother and father put me in school. I remember when I went to register into school and I asked my stepmother “can they place me in 5th grade, I don’t want to take 4th grade again.” I was so excited to start school and learn English. I started at the Condon Elementary School in South Boston to begin my educational journey in the United States. During the first week of the Condon school, I started picking up the language immediately. One of my teachers called my stepmother to tell her how quickly I was already leaning English. I have always loved going to school, especially in the United States with all of the opportunities that there are available. Even though I had to start from the bottom up when I came to the United States, I always pushed myself, and this is why I am standing here today as Dearborn’s first salutatorian.

Here I am, graduating from Dearborn STEM Academy, where I have spent the last six years of my life.  As we all know, Dearborn has a lot of history behind it. First, it was an all women’s high school, then a middle school, and now a 6-12 STEM Academy where students will learn how to become future leaders. I have seen and been through the struggles and transitions.  

Many of us graduating here tonight started together on Greenville Street, learning English, away from most of our family back in Cape Verde, wondering what we were doing in this new place.  

I am lucky to have gone through 6-12 grade with the same classmates, especially Ayanne; she has gone through every struggle and joy with me throughout the years; I don’t know what I will do in college without my best friend. To my other classmates, we have had some great memories. One that particularly comes to mind is when Jose acted as Juliet during English class and when we lost him in New Orleans because he decided to take a nap on the bench… I don’t know what we will do without Jose’s fun humor, warm smile and caring ways.  We love you Jose.

I want to thank everyone in this room who has supported and cared for me. Thank you to all the teachers and staff.  I want to say a special Thank You to Elaine Miller, a retired teacher who pushed all of us, expected a great deal from us and also supported us in and out of the classroom.  She helped to make the transition to middle school and to the United States a comfortable one. I would also like to say a special thank you to my guidance counselor, Mr. Likosky, who has supported us from the first day that we met him at JFK station before 11th grade to go to Bunker Hill to take the Accuplacer Exam. Mr. Likosky has always been there for all of us throughout these past two years; he always gives the best advice and offers a lot of opportunities for us to flourish outside of school.  Thank you, Mr. Likosky, for all your support and dedication to our success. I also want to say thank you to our AP Computer Science teacher, Mr. Loporto, who doesn’t just teach about technology, but teaches us about the future and takes time out of his personal day to teach us boxing. I want to also say a special thank you to Ms. Sheehan, who is not just a teacher, but a role model and a sister, there hasn’t been a time where she hadn’t tried to help me through my tough times, thank you for your support these past two years. I also want to say thank you to my boss Sheri at BPE. Every day that I go into work, she always asks Ayanne and I how school is going, always looking out for us. I’m going to speak for Ayanne and say thank you to Sheri for always helping us with anything we need. If it wasn’t for the great staff at Dearborn and BPE, I don’t know where our graduating class would be here today. Lastly, I want to say thank you to my second mother and father for always supporting me since the day I arrived at their door and making sure I was doing well in school. I know it wasn’t always easy to deal with me, but thank you for supporting me regardless, I love you guys.

To the Dearborn STEM Academy first graduating class, we all have been through tough times, moving from one building to the next, seeing teachers and headmasters come and go, but we are all here today to celebrate our success and the fact that we stayed together, supporting one another. While we will be going our separate ways, I know that we will forever stay a close group of friends. I know that all of us will go through hard times in college, but in the words of Jack Ma,  “Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine.”

I never imagined that I would be standing here today, with a full ride to Bentley University to major in finance and accounting, with a minor in mathematics. I am reminded of the day that I first came to the United States. I saw huge buildings and bright lights, I thought I was entering paradise. I hope that other people get the chance to come to the United States and get the opportunities that I have been given.

I want very badly for other immigrants to get an education in the United States. The words of Nelson Mandela have never been more true than they are today: “education is the most powerful tool you can use to change the world.” To my friends, classmates, teachers, staff, and family members; may we not forget to use the tool that we have been given to better ourselves, our friends, and the world.

Thank you, gracias, obrigado.

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