Malia McLellan’s graduation speech: Success is stepping stone to larger goal


Hello seniors, families, friends and faculty of Pelham Memorial High School. I am so incredibly grateful to be here today, celebrating the class of 2022. Whether your great-grandparents grew up here or you were the new kid this year, you’ve made it to the finish line, and the community of Pelham is proud to watch you cross it.

At 5 years old, I envisioned that our high school years would be like “High School Musical:” breaking out into song, bouncing basketballs around the halls, and throwing our papers at the sound of the last bell before summer break. Although I do break out into song a bit, high school was not exactly how Troy and Gabriella portrayed. Regardless of what you expected high school to be like, I can attest that none of us predicted the past few years we had to endure. The challenge of transitioning into a life of pixels presented a test we couldn’t study for, a test with no answer key. However, this assessment has provided us with a common denominator, and has proven that we are “All in this Together.” So maybe it is a little bit like “High School Musical.”

Take a moment and look around you. The peers surrounding you are the ones you traded silly bands with in Kindergarten, went through a neon phase with, got braces with, shared secrets with, crushed on, whipped and nae nae-d with at Friday Night Lives, did the mannequin challenge with, asked to the 8th grade dinner dance, sang “Old Town Road” with, logged onto google meets with, reunited with, and now, the ones you turn your tassel with.

As I reflect on our ephemeral moments here and look into the unknown future, our generation gives me hope. The motivation you all have to “Get’cha Head In The Game” and make the world a better place inspires me to advance my own character as an advocate for what I believe. Whether it be climate change, societal reform, racial justice, or mental health awareness, I see all of you fighting the instinct to “Stick to the Status Quo.”

Although this town is small, Pelham’s bubble has sprouted tenacious students contributing to important issues everyday. Even on a small scale, such as participating in clubs at school, we have aspired to get involved in this community and make meaningful differences towards success. Success: an extremely subjective term that no dictionary can properly define. Society has created an outlook on success as a picture perfect career, affiliated with financial gain, extensive popularity, and public accomplishment. If success is portrayed as this grand, almost out-of-reach, idea, why does everyone crave to attempt finding success? The answer is simple.

Success isn’t the top of a mountain society makes it out to be. Success can be stepping stones to a larger goal. One of those stepping stones being standing here today. I urge you to be proud of your diligence and perseverance these past 4 years, because today, June 25, 2022, you ARE successful. And to quote “High School Musical,” today marks the “Start of Something New.”

Malia McLellan was one of three students chosen to speak at Saturday’s graduation ceremony based on speeches submitted.