June 12, 2017
The Pro Deo et Schola Award (meaning "For God and School") is awarded to a student who has demonstrated academic excellence, outstanding citizenship, and has been a faithful Christian role model to The Martin Luther School community. Recipients of the award are invited to speak at Commencement. Preston delivered his speech on June 10, 2017 during the ceremony.
"I am honored and thankful to be the recipient of the "Pro Deo et Schola" award and truly blessed to have spent my high school years in this community. However, I have a confession to make. When my parents told me they were going to send me to private school for seventh grade, I thought they were crazy. I didn't want to leave my friends and all the connections that I had made at my middle school. Whenever they tried to convince me I just yelled, "Why pay for education when I can get it here for free?" and they would respond, "Why talk back to us when you can just ask for a beating!"
One night during the summer prior to the school year, I packed my bags and was prepared to run away from home. I truly believed that my 7" tall Optimus Prime and I were going to survive the streets of New York, but as you can see that gig didn't work out. Optimus bailed on me and went to make a movie for Michael Bay, so I stayed home. I have a question-- does everyone here recall the story, Where the Wild Things Are? Well, in short, the book tells the tale of a boy named Max who runs away from home because he feels misunderstood. He then becomes king of the Wild Things, but realizes that being king isn't as easy as he thought, so he decides to go back home. Well, I don't know about you guys but I feel that same way sometimes when things get too difficult; I wish I could just go home and go to sleep. Anyways, I can pretty much relate to how Max felt because it was the same way I felt about coming here six years ago. When my mom told me she was sending me to private school for my own good, I felt the same way Max did. I reacted like the prepubescent teen that I was; throwing a tantrum saying I didn't want to go and saying she didn't understand what I wanted. I planned on running away from something that I didn't want to accept, and reject what I couldn't control. So in a way, I see myself in Max, as that young boy that couldn't get his way, however I wasn't as successful as he was and ended up coming here anyways. Looking back at the way I felt I wish I could've gone back in time to grab my younger self by the shoulders and rattle him until he decided to come here willingly. Because coming to Martin Luther was one of the greatest decisions I have ever made.
Martin Luther has contributed so much to what I have come to be. Every once in a while throughout high school, people would ask me about the pictures I'm in on the third floor, "Are you really that kid with the square glasses and hair that looks like a helmet?" and I am proud to say, "Yeah, that's me! Where would you like me to sign?" Those pictures just go to prove how far I have come, but I could not do it alone. God blessed me with the outstanding teachers and student body who have shaped who I am today, but needless to say, the last four years were never always easy.
There were times where I would hit rock bottom, feel helpless at the face of an impeccable challenge, and encounter struggles that I had never thought I would experience, but I did not lose hope. In 1 Corinthians 10:15 God says "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." This verse helped me hold on and overcome the things that I didn't want to accept, they helped me understand the things that I wanted to reject, because everything is in God's plan. The story of Joseph is a sound example, where Joseph's pain and suffering serves a greater purpose in the eyes of the Lord. He is betrayed and sold as a slave by his brothers, only then to become the second most powerful man of Egypt and save it from starvation.
Likewise, God had a greater purpose for for my pain and suffering. As some of you may know May of 2016 was quite a hard time for me. That month my father was diagnosed with lung cancer, spent 3 days in ICU, and underwent two medical procedures all in the same week. I was at the face of an impeccable challenge, on my knees at the feet of something I had never expected, and I assure you, I never expected the words "father" and "cancer" to be said in the same sentence. I remember one night in the ICU room clearly and vividly as I sat in the back corner. I was pained from the sound my father made when he took a breath because you could hear his struggle for air. I was pained at the sight of undisturbed trails of tears that ran down my mother's face as she knelt by his bedside. And I sat there with my Regents review packet preparing for the test that was no more than a week away. This memory is burned into my mind as a reminder, that there will never be a sound worse than a loved one makes as they struggle to breathe, or a sight more unsightly than a spouse crying relentlessly for the man she loves. I use this reminder to tell myself that I overcame that and am now standing in front of the graduating Class of 2017 because of God's grace, mercy, and love, and because he provided me with a way. There is nothing that I cannot overcome with God. I'm proud to say that everything happens for a reason because my father is now breathing and smiling at me from a seat here at my graduation. And our family is closer than it ever was. Every day he acts as a living testimony of God's almighty power and his being screams that God will provide a way.
I've been asked before if I wish I could relive a past where this doesn't happen, but I told them I wouldn't have it any other way, because this was God's plan. This experience has brought me to cherish the good times, and overcome the bad ones. It has helped shape my character, giving me courage and faith to use as weapons in the face of overwhelming fears.
Fellow classmates, my message to you is that everything happens for a reason, and that reason will benefit you in ways you can never come to imagine. Even though at the moment it will be hard, and seem impossible, I hate to break it to you guys but no one said it was going to be easy. But God says that he will provide us with a way to endure it. The future is prime example of Ms. Forrester's class: every day you will experience something unexpected, but enlightening. However, at the face of a challenge and when you are in need of help, life sometimes responds with "That sounds like a personal problem." And so I ask, that when life hits you with Ms. Forrester's punch line, don't give in. Grit your teeth and push on because God Almighty says He will provide us with a way. I wish you all the best of luck as we move on forward, to dominate our future as children of God. Thank you."