We'll Be Ready

Ryan Maloney was one of two students selected to speak on behalf of the Class of 2019.

Welcome to you all, and thank you to our teachers who helped my classmates and me get to the special place we are today.

I came to Penn Charter in eighth grade from Northeast Philadelphia, and never thought I’d be here speaking today. My parents, Kelli and George, own a landscaping company located in our neighborhood, and my sister Morgan is a rising Junior at Penn Charter. Football and basketball have always been my passion, but the confidence to be able to speak is something that I developed over time.

It has been such a memorable journey for the Class of 2019, and I’m honored to serve as one of our commencement speakers. I’m not sure why you chose me for this, but I think it has something to do with the fact that people are comfortable speaking with me on any regular school day, and also comfortable with me speaking on their behalf on this day, perhaps the biggest day of our lives to this point.

There is a certain irony to me standing up here because, from kindergarten until freshman year at Penn Charter, I barely talked to anyone. Being outgoing was not something that came naturally to me. But like many of my classmates sitting behind me, my story is not about who I was when I came here, but it is about who I am today and the path I travelled to get to the point where I am speaking on graduation day.

I remember three years ago over in that end zone, laying on the ground after we failed to convert on a fake field goal attempt in double overtime in a football game against Haverford. I did not know it then, but that loss basically ended the season for us.

That moment was the only play I remember from that game. It was the only snap I played, and it was a complete failure.

I never would have thought I would be where I am today. But my story and the story of the class of 2019 is not the story of being knocked down on the ground, but of building from the ground up.

Three years ago I was was face down on the ground, but in my junior season, I was part of a team that won nine football games for the first time since 1905. This year I was a team captain and never came off the field.

Like many of the my classmates sitting behind me, I came to Penn Charter from another world. I felt like a fish out of water in my eighth grade year. The people I met that year were also from a different world:

  • David Gallant ­ a Jewish kid and lacrosse player from the suburbs
  • Muhammad Harris ­ Muslim kid, from west Philadelphia
  • Haley Joyce­ a straight-A student, who lives around the corner from Penn Charter, and always has something nice to say to anyone she passed in the halls The fact that Haley talked a lot was fine with me, because I did not say a word in my eighth grade year.

Although I felt like an outcast, I realize today that most of my other classmates probably felt the same way. We all came from different worlds, and we began our lives at Penn Charter feeling like we were knocked on the ground.

But the real story of the Class of 2019 is the story of building ourselves from the ground up. The ground that we started on and the paths we took are all slightly different, but we all ended up here today in caps and gowns, ready to shake Dr. Ford’s hand and receive our diplomas. In a few minutes, you will hear our names called to walk across the stage. One name you will hear is:

Eddie Saydee.­ Eddie’s family immigrated to this country from Liberia. He started at a public school called Prep Charter, transferred here for a better opportunity for himself and his family, and set school records on the football field. And now, Eddie has accepted a full scholarship to Temple University to play football there.

You’ll also hear the name: Brendan Thomas. When Brendan started high school here, many did not think he was going to make it through Penn Charter. But he kept working and became a great athlete and is going to Widener University for nursing and to play football.

Ally Paul came to Penn Charter in sixth grade, lost her dad on her journey here at Penn Charter, left here in 11th grade, and came back to graduate as a senior. She will go to Widener University and play soccer there.

Wayne Derkotch was unsure if he wanted to join the military after Penn Charter. While here, he participated in many veteran programs to support soldiers. His time and performance at Penn Charter changed his view of life after high school, and he will attend King’s College where he will wrestle.

Brie Hill ­battled health issues throughout her time at Penn Charter, never complained, and kept her head high as she worked to graduate from our school.

Although we learn a lot from our teachers and parents, we truly learn the most about ourselves from each other. Putting all of these different people in one small school means that there will be some difficult moments as we figure out who we are, both as individuals and as a class. Everyone makes mistakes in the classroom, at home, on the sports fields. But the important part is to not get caught up in the mistake you made, but use the lessons you learned to grow as a person.

I came to Penn Charter five years ago as a shy kid from the Northeast who barely said a word to anyone. Three years ago, I was laying face down on that goal line in failure. But today I am standing here speaking on behalf of myself and my classmates. All of us share a story;­ the details are different, but the beginning and end are the same.

We all came from different worlds, we’ve all been knocked down at some point on our journey, but we all got back up. In a few moments, our journey at Penn Charter will officially come to an end, and a new journey will begin. The details of our next journey will be different, but the arc will be the same: we will begin from the ground, get knocked down at some point, and be challenged to get back up and continue learning and growing. Because of Penn Charter, we’ll be ready.

Thank you and congratulations to the Class of 2019!