Florida teen stopped from giving valedictorian speech at high school graduation

YouTube screen grab 

Kriya Naidu wasn’t allowed to give her valedictorian speech at her May 28 high school graduation in Florida, so she posted it on YouTube and Twitter instead.

She recorded the speech in her room, with medals and achievement ribbons in the background, where she thanked her siblings and her parents for supporting and encouraging her throughout the past 18 years, including the “warm meals” that awaited her at home, frequent road trips and plenty of ice cream along the way.

News reports say Naidu failed to send the speech to administrators at the University High School in Orange County, and hence they declined her, an opportunity of a lifetime. “I was really upset at first,” Naidu told the Orlando Sentinel. “I worked so hard on it.”

She told the paper that she was asked late on May 23 to record her speech. But she told the paper that she didn’t have enough time to do it because of her part-time tutoring job and an Advanced Placement calculus exam. But she said that it was only hours before the ceremony, that an administrator told Naidu’s mother that her daughter wouldn’t be able to stand on the podium and address her graduating class.

She told clickorlando.com that on graduation day, her name was still on the program to give the valedictory address, “which again shows that this was all last minute and sudden.”

In her speech, posted online on May 28, and which has now gone viral, with over 19,000 views on YouTube, Naidu, while speaking about her parents’ transition to the U.S., touched upon the subject of immigrants, which is a hot topic these days. Meanwhile, the Sentinel reported that although it wasn’t clear if the topic of her speech was problematic, Naidu told the paper that she “didn’t say anything inflammatory.”

She said after her parents moved to the U.S., “they faced their fair share of challenges: prejudice, difficulty securing jobs, pay parity and much more.” But, she added: “every time they were knocked down, they got back up.” Naidu said her parents’ success “is an example of what immigrants, people of color and everyone can achieve with hard work, even when they find themselves in a country that seems to work against them.” She said “immigrants are valued members in every corner of society, including teachers who inspire us,” the “farmers who feed us” and the entertainers who regularly touch our hearts.” Quoting a line from the musical “Hamilton,” she said: “As Lin-Manuel Miranda would say, ‘Immigrants, we get the job done.’”

Meanwhile, news reports say that the school district’s superintendent Barbara Jenkins, in an email sent to Naidu’s mother on May 30, apologized to Naidu, saying she was “deeply saddened” by the incident, adding that immigration was not a topic of concern. “I apologize to your daughter and family for the unfortunate mistakes made,” local media quoted the email as saying. “I again commend your daughter for her outstanding accomplishments, and congratulate her parents as well.” She added: “Regardless of this error, I have no doubt that Kriya’s future remains extremely bright.”

Meanwhile, the Sentinel reported on May 30 that district officials have since invited Naidu to give her speech at an upcoming school board meeting, While it is unclear if Naidu whether Naidu has accepted the invitation, her Facebook page is full on comments discouraging her from attending it. “You should decline the offer to present at the school board,” one comment said. “Your speech is already all over social media and has surpass your graduation class size!! DON’T fall for it.. tell them to kick rocks!! They can listen to it on the web like the rest of us! They took your chance, they missed their chance.”

Before Naidu posted the video of her speech, an edited copy of it was posted on Facebook by Victoria McCray, who describes herself as a horse trainer and riding instructor. Photos of Naidu horse riding and posing with awards are all over her Facebook page. “On May 28, Kriya was not allowed to deliver her Valedictorian speech at today’s University High School,” McGray wrote. “This was so unfair to Kriya and her family. She worked hard to earn the prestigious title of Valedictorian and for University High School to rob her of her speech , for them to rob her family of watching her deliver that speech , and for them to rob her classmates of a Valedictorian speech is inexcusable,” she said. “This is her unedited speech ! Make it go viral to shame University High School for robbing this young lady of a once in a lifetime opportunity that she earned and deserved.”

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