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Grad at Grad Reflection - Ikki Kaijima

Grad at Grad Reflection
Ikki Kaijima


Good morning faculty, good morning students. Thank you Mr. Lewis for your kind introduction. I was told you would be introducing me with a joke, so here I am!


I’m not an outstanding student, I’m don’t get perfect “A”s, and I’m not some kind of a prodigy. I’m sure a few of my teachers could attest to that reality because my grades surely do. However, as I stand before you today, I have to say how far my journey in America has taken me – to this present moment, here with you all, speaking in English at a podium in New York City.  Today, I have the honor of speaking to you about my time here in America as well as my time here at Loyola School, and how I have cultivated the aspects of being “academically excellent”.

Here’s a crash course of my story.  I was born in Tokyo and came here when I was seven. My mom, after getting married to my step-dad, told me only a few days in advance that we were moving to America. What a surprise that was to me. I remember the first thing that I asked her was “Can I still see my friends, at America?”  And I didn’t know it at the time, but deep down I was scared, scared of leaving my family, scared of leaving my home, scared of leaving the only life that I had ever known. Now that I think about it, it might have been the best darn thing that has happened to me.

In the past decade of my life, from Our Lady of Pompeii School in the West Village, with a

class of roughly 18 students, to here at Loyola, I’ve learned to overcome that fear.

I’ve learned to assimilate into a new society, and have learned to summon my thoughts and have a distinct voice.  I’ve acquired many ideologies, and have developed different ways of thinking that can be derived from all four corners of the world. The platform that this country carries is truly unique, especially this city, and I can visualize no other place in the world like New York. Commuting here every day from Westchester, I sometimes lose sight of New York’s significance. Beneath all of its glamor is a place where I have learned to speak, to listen, and to watch the people around me, in school and through the media. I’ve had the opportunity to bring the power of ink to paper through the beautiful language that we call English, and even be recognized for my works. Perhaps none of this would have been possible if not for the support that I have received during this time. Here in America, I have learned to challenge the thoughts of others, and I have learned to question the thoughts of my teachers. Here at Loyola, I have learned the value in hearing others speak and taking in the ideas that they bring forth, and as ironic as this may sound, coming from a guy at the microphone, I have learned that you can’t always be the one talking.

Despite failures and setbacks I have faced in my journey and despite the mistakes that I continue to encounter, it’s all been worth it, truly. Every day I imagine how different my life would have been if my mother never married my father. I would probably be in a high school classroom somewhere in Tokyo, struggling to learn the difference between an asyndeton or a polysyndeton. The ABC’s I probably couldn’t pronounce without sounding like a fool, just like I still can’t say the letter R without spiting in French or roll my R in Spanish without biting

my tongue. So yes, I have thought about it; I am the right person to offer this Grad-at-Grad reflection because I’m someone who makes plenty of mistakes. I make stupid mistakes all the time. Ms. Buckley-Lawson can tell you of the numerous times I made errors conjugating easy

verbs during my first two years with her.  Ms. Cerussi can tell you how I sometimes get 70’s on

my pre-calculus tests and Ms. Holden can tell you how I’m full of fluff in my writing, using

excessive alliteration to make a simple claim. All of this is true.  But as Ms. Coop had made me believe, I knew deep down that I could do better. I knew deep down that I if applied the

right amount of time and maintained the right mindset, I could reach my goals. Now, conjugating verbs is somewhat second nature, I manage to pull off a ninety average for pre-calc, and I’m getting rid of that fluff because I have the right ideas and I want my teacher to know them. 

As I approach my final years at Loyola, I’ve begun to feel more of a responsibility in my education and more accessible to my teachers, who, by the way, are here to help us, not to fail us.  An I’ve felt the academic cohesiveness in my classrooms like Mr. Donacik’s physics class or Ms. Cerussi’s pre-calc class where I always ask my birthday twin Sarah Addison sitting next to me if we have the same answers.

I want to leave you with some words of wisdom given to me by another mentor of mine,

my hockey coach. He said, “we are judged not by our failures but judged by how we respond to those failures.” Granted, while this was said in a pregame talk, I think it applies on and off the ice. As a student, I learned that it’s ok to make mistakes if we respond to those mistakes proactively instead of leaving them alone on a pile of old papers and letting them accumulate week by week. I aspire to become more proactive because, from the root of our mistakes stems the opportunity for change, the opportunity for learning, and the opportunity for challenging ourselves. That’s what I’ve come to learn and hoped to share with you today.

And so, to wrap up, being academically excellent doesn’t mean that we have to get a

perfect report card. That would be a dream come true for people like me, but academic excellence is the act of responding to our mistakes, speaking our minds, challenging our teachers and our peers, and helping others along the way. In doing so, I hope to throw my metaphorical graduation hat in unison with my friends and classmates, and leave here

knowing that I met my goals and that I don’t have many regrets. Like Mr. D’Alessio, who

beautifully spoke to us about his passion for music, and like the masses of us here who believe in something, I am on the road to discovering my passion.

Thank you.