It was clear when Justin Genevro’s name was announced his senior speech was going to be well received. Students cheered from their seats as he strolled up to the podium, a lei draped over his shoulders and chest, maroon robe flowing around him.
He spoke with the confidence of a southern preacher, or a presidential candidate charming an audience of supporters, raising his voice into a passionate shout as he spoke about what it takes to be successful.
“My grandpa always told me that it takes the positive charge and the negative charge for the battery to produce energy,” Genevro said.
“Even though I knew what he was saying, when I was little, I didn’t believe him,” he added. He shared a tale about the time that a vice principal had told him that he would never amount to anything in life. And while the statement remained inside of him, he never let it dominate him.
As he spoke, the students who sat in white lawn chairs on Coach Parks Field at Menlo-Atherton High School hung on every word, smiling as he spoke of his passion for uniting his fellow students as the President of the Black Student Union, and furrowing their brows in silence when he spoke of the low points in his life that led him to be who is today.
377 students of every socioeconomic status were ready to graduate that afternoon as their families watched from the stands. They had seen the U.S. Marine Corps Presentation of Colors and heard the Menlo-Atherton Choir sing the National Anthem with their hearts on their hands.
Resilience and determination, Genevro said, were the two traits that Menlo Atherton students must have to go forward and reach their goals.
“Sometimes mountains are hard to climb, but we keep on trying; we cannot and definitely will not give up; wherever we decide to go in life, our attitude determines our altitude!”
People’s hands involuntarily began to clap. People cheered and rose to give him a standing ovation.
Congratulations to the Menlo-Atherton Senior Class of 2011.