Former Student Returned to Share Her Advice

The featured student graduation address this week comes from Briana Johnson, a 2016 graduate of Simon Youth Academy at Westminster Mall, who returned to her Alma mater to give an encouraging message to the Academy at Westminster Mall’s 2017 graduating class.

It is a true testament to the work that the Academies do when former students are able to give back and share their wisdom with new graduates.

Since her graduation, Briana has attended Cerritos College to pursue a degree in Nursing.

Briana’s graduation address:

Good evening fellow graduates, Principal Curiel, Mr. Villamor, Trustee Ms. Iverson, Dr. Bryan, Dr. Durnil, honored guests, family and friends. Thank you for being here tonight to honor these graduates, and congratulations to the Class of 2017. You did it, with determination.

Last June, I was sitting here just like all of you graduates. Anxious, with my cap and gown on, wondering what life had in store for me when I finally held that diploma in my hand. The teachers and staff of Simon Youth Coast High School Academy helped me realize that I had more potential than I knew.


In fall 2015, I finished my high school credits. However, I saw an open opportunity to strive to become the most successful person I could be. Shortly after finishing my credits the Coast High School Academy, I enrolled at Cerritos College a few months later. College was challenging and a huge step for me considering I was the first to graduate high school, let alone go to college, in my family. I can now say that I am one step closer to becoming a physician. I can now say I am one step closer to making an impact in our community. Along the way, there have been trials and tribulations, but I’ve managed to always take the good with the bad and I think we have all done that.

I know pursing your careers in times that are troubled is a challenge, but it is also a privilege because it’s moments like these that force us to try harder, to dig deeper, and to discover gifts we never knew we had and to find the greatness that lies within each of us. So don’t ever shy away from that endeavor and don’t stop adding to your body of work. I can promise that you will be the better for that continued effort.

Whether it is your dream to further pursue college or not, just remember: this is another milestone that you have created for yourself.

Since entering college, I’ve managed to learn what it is like to be an adult. There are nights where I just feel like falling asleep after studying for back-to-back finals, or days where I just felt like not going to school at all; I have felt this struggle, and you will too. Hard work will pay off, though. You can ask anyone, like your professors standing up here, dentists, doctors, the architects who helped design this mall, entrepreneurs. You will persevere and strive with excellence along the way!

Just remember, if you ever feel overwhelmed, which we all have at one point, don’t be afraid to seek help, whether it’s from a family member, friends, colleagues, teachers or counselors.

I also want to give a huge thank you to the Simon Youth Foundation, as I was one of the three recipients last year of their generous scholarship. They believed in my potential every step of the way.

So I want to end with this quote, as it has been an inspiration and kept me motivated for some time now.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. It literally means a journey that will take you a thousand miles away from where you started.”

So, take that first step this evening, with your diploma in your hand, and create endless opportunities for yourself. The future is waiting for you with open arms. I wish you good luck and great success. Thank you all very much.

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