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Jahci J. Perry-Richardson, Valedictorian, Cleveland School of the Arts, '17

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13200 Forest Hill Ave

East Cleveland, OH 44112

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Please join us in congratulating our daughter, Jahci Perry-Richardson, on her graduation from Cleveland School of the Arts as Valedictorian and as she embarks on the second chapter of her educational career at Case Western Reserve University.

Well wishes can be sent to Jahci at home or online--including by way of Pay Pal--at the following addresses:

Jahci Joy Perry-Richardson
13200 Forest Hill Avenue
East Cleveland, Ohio


Thank you for celebrating Jahci's achievements and future hopes with us. We invite you to read her Valedictorian remarks below and watch the video of them here:

Mattie LaVora Perry and Cedric J. Richardson

Jahci Joy Perry-Richardson's Valedictorian Remarks, Cleveland School of the Arts Class of 2017 Commencement, John Hay High School auditorium, May 21, 2017

I don’t know about you guys, but I didn’t realize I was graduating until today. Upon graduating, I will be moving out of my parents’ house, taking out college loans, and all the while wondering “is it worth it?” I don’t know, and I guess I’ll find out.

Attending college is one of those things I wonder about. Like graduation, you don’t really think about it until it’s there. Particularly, I neglected to consider the money. I always assumed I would just go to the college that gave me the most. However, when the time came, I didn’t.

I was offered a full ride to a small liberal arts college in New York, named Skidmore. The same college Melissa Dowell will be attending in the fall with a full ride. Knowing I do not prefer liberal arts colleges, I visited thinking I might feel differently about this one—I didn’t; though I still felt I had to go because of the money offered.

But then, I remembered something my orchestra conductor, Ms. Richardson, said during rehearsal one day, “Don’t prostitute yourself.” Of course, with us being children, many of us were shocked and only connected her advice with the promiscuous side of prostitution. However, she went on to explain that prostitution also entails rejecting your personal values or forsaking your wants simply for financial gains. I realized I was thinking of doing just that; because, had that college offered me even two thirds of what was in that financial aid package, I wouldn’t have considered going.

It doesn’t feel so great to do something just for money, as I am sure many of us here are subject to doing anyway. We might have to work at jobs we don’t really like, for example. But, nevertheless, our society does revolve around money and encourages—almost forces—many of our decisions to be made because of the potential gain or loss of it. But I would like to encourage you to not make all of your decisions based on money. It may be naive to say so, but at least some decisions should be made just because you want to and you think it will make you happy. As my mother says, “No one dies thinking: 'Gee, I’m glad I made a million dollars before I died.'”

Speaking of my mother, there are many people we must thank today who contributed to our success. Our teachers and administrators provided us with the knowledge needed to progress in our academic careers. Our friends supported us through our hardships. And our parents, guardians, and families guided us through our mistakes, provided advice on how to move forward, and practiced tough love.

I would personally like to thank my teachers: Mr. Porter, Mrs. Mehlotra, Mr. Padaraju, and Mr. Higgins, for providing me with the learning opportunities I can take with me to college. I thank Ms. Clarke, our head guidance counselor, for rigorously guiding me throughout my educational career. I thank my orchestra conductor, Ms. Richardson, for being a mentor and advocate for me. Mikayla Cosby, for being an irreplaceable friend like family. My older siblings for being role models and personal confidants. And finally, most importantly, I thank my parents. My parents have supported me and provided for me even when I felt like I didn’t deserve it. They never gave up one me, even when I felt like giving up on myself.

While I hope people such as those I’ve mentioned were a part of my peers’ lives and their successes, too, we must also not forget that, ultimately, we are the sole determiners of our own success. Sometimes in striving towards our own betterment, we start to compare our lives to those of others. We start to doubt our self-defined notions of success and live by someone else’s. But, we must recognize that if we put forth the work, we can achieve our dreams. My grandfather, Elder Rudolph Perry, Sr., used to say, “If someone else can do it, so can I.” It was a saying he lived by, and one which means what we decide to do is how we define ourselves. We are not defined by other people’s success or ideas of success.

Furthermore, as we trek along our various roads towards success and stumble across obstacles, it is okay to reach out to those people who have helped us. It is not a hand-out, but so what, even if it is. Take advantage of the opportunity when you can—as the saying goes, “Closed mouths, don’t get fed.” Also, consider what our fellow senior, A’Laya Doss, says, “When things get hard, and you feel alone, almost to the point of giving up, remember it's okay to cry away the pain when all else has failed you.” Her quote reminds us that it is not a weakness to be emotional. In hard times, it may actually be essential to ask for a lending hand. And allowing vulnerability takes strength.

In conclusion, every step we take may not be the perfect step in the “right” direction, but at least we won’t be remaining stagnant. We will be moving forward with our lives. Regardless of what it is you are going to do after you walk off the stage today with your diploma in hand, this graduation is a step forward for you. We all should be proud.

The New Beginning

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13200 Forest Hill Ave

East Cleveland, OH 44112

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