When Sarah Mendoza Dela Cruz first enrolled at Northside ISD’s Construction Careers Academy at Warren High School, she thought she might want to be an architect. Dela Cruz describes herself as a straightforward, logical thinker, so that line of work made sense.

Throughout high school, Dela Cruz was involved in band where she played the mellophone, the principal’s cabinet that gave her the opportunity to advise her campus’ chief administrator, and a mentorship program for students interested in architecture, construction, and engineering.

The 17-year-old valedictorian’s favorite subject is math and she found she liked calclulus quite a bit, even though it was challenging. But over time, Dela Cruz’s passions changed. This fall, the San Antonian will start school at the University of Texas at Austin as an undecided major. She hopes to study math and aspires to become an actuary.

The end of Dela Cruz’s high school career looked quite different than the start, but the logical high school senior saw both pros and cons. It was harder to maintain motivation to do work, but the anxiety of being in an in-person class setting with so many other people dissolved, she said.

Her graduation speech is below:

As I reflect on our adolescence, a recurring theme has been to follow our passion. From YouTube videos, to movies, to pop culture, the theme is the same – follow your passion. If you know your passion, if you know what drives you, that’s great, and there’s nothing wrong with following it if it makes you happy. But once you fulfill your goals, what’s next? It seems that passion has limits, and the prospect of not fulfilling your passion is equally frustrating. Therefore, I would argue that there is something more fulfilling than passion: curiosity.

Was it not because of curiosity that we first learned how to grab things at just a few months old? Was it not curiosity that led us to climb that tree to the very top just to see how different things looked from up there? We’ve been curious all our lives, why should we stop just because we are becoming adults?

There may come a point where we find the 9 to 5 life may not be enough to satisfy us, or the major we originally picked does not pique our interest like it used to, or maybe college isn’t our thing. It’s okay to feel that way. This is where curiosity comes into play. If you find something you’re curious about, there’s an element of surprise and discovery that will always be there to keep you interested and eager to continue. Curiosity breeds zeal, meaning there will always be something to look forward to. Curiosity is the gateway to new discoveries and new opportunities, it has no finish line, it does not stop at 5 p.m. And if you have the guidance of someone you trust, like a parent, a teacher, or a friend, the experience is far more rewarding. 

Standing here, I feel an overwhelming sense of melancholy as I remember the first football games of the year, and the last ones. The lunches and the after-school hangouts, and with it, the joy I felt. Although it saddens me that it must come to an end, I know that it won’t be the last time we make new friends, it won’t be the last time we learn new things, and it won’t be the last time we feel this happy. So as we transition into this new phase of our lives, remember to look ahead, learn new things, stay motivated, and stay curious. 

To the class of 2020, I wish each of you the best in your future endeavors, and congratulations on this momentous achievement.

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Sarah Mendoza Dela Cruz

Sarah Mendoza Dela Cruz is Construction Careers Academy's 2020 valedictorian.