Overcoming Adversity: 2018 Graduate Semaj Pitts (Phoenix, Ariz.)

Date: June 30, 2018

Since opening in 1996, more than 3,000 young men and women have earned their high school diplomas at Ombudsman Arizona Alternative Charter Schools. The Class of 2018 saw 306 students earn their diplomas – our largest graduating class ever!

For many students, Ombudsman offers the best path to help them overcome personal, economic, or academic challenges as they work toward their degree.

We’re featuring the commencement speeches of seven graduates from the Class of 2018 here on the blog this month.

This is Semaj Pitts’ Ombudsman Arizona Charter success story.

“I went to Ombudsman all alone by myself and signed up by myself and found the help I needed.” Semaj persevered when faced with difficult circumstances at home and in school. She is now a member of the Ombudsman Class of 2018 and has earned her diploma. Semaj delivered the following speech during the graduation ceremony in Phoenix.

“In 8th grade when I went to orientation for my freshmen year all they told me was come to school on time, get good grades, and get 8 hours of sleep. I was a little upset because no one told me “Hey besides that also worry about those little bumps in the road like what you’re gonna eat for lunch, what elective you wanna take… or your emotional health.” It seemed like when I got to high school everything that could go bad… did. It seemed like no matter how well I did in school, going back home killed me more every single day. Having to go home and worry about whether there’s food in the fridge or if the water or electricity was on. It’s been hard to stay positive, to have a hunger for education, while also having to prove myself constantly as a black female in America. But, knowing where and what I come from makes this day so much more special to me.”

“I would like to thank some of the people who have helped me along the way. To the beautiful ladies of Charter East. Although we’ve knocked heads before, I’m very appreciative and thankful for you guys and I really love y’all. To my church family Free to Worship Ministries, thank you guys for being my family in Christ when I was so far away from my biological family, and for all the knowledge, love and sincerity you’ve all shown me. To my brothers, thank you for stepping up and being the men I needed you guys to be. You’ve taught me everything I would possibly need to know. To my mama thank you for everything you were able to give and do for me. You did the best you could do as a single mother of 4. As a kid I was always a critic, always asking “why don’t I have this or that or why don’t you do this” when in reality I should have been like “thank you mama for the clothes on my back for the shoes on my feet for the roof over my head and for the life in my body.” I love you mama, and I hope you know all your hard work has paid off.”


“There is a lot of misinformation about charter schools and that is only troubled or disadvantaged kids go to charter schools. Everyone person here today can testify that this is not true.”


“Sadly, I know many of us are missing someone here today, so these final thank-yous are for the people I wish could be sitting in these seats. My daddy was killed when I was 4 years old but I feel the need to give thanks to one of the most important men in my life, I hope I’m giving you something to brag about to the angels. To my grandpa kenny, to my granny, to my nana, to my litha and papas, and to my aunty sista I love you guys and thank you for everything you’ve ever poured into me and for the faith you’ve had in me. Rest in heaven.”

“There is a lot of misinformation about charter schools and that is only troubled or disadvantaged kids go to charter schools. Everyone person here today can testify that this is not true. People who are behind on credits or can’t function in a brick and mortar school go to charter school. People who have had life spit in their face go to charter schools. I myself came to Ombudsman in my junior year because as a freshman I ended up moving so much in Arizona after I had left California that I was told I had earned no credits my freshman year. Now at that point I was already discouraged because I had felt like I had wasted an entire school year doing nothing so I stopped going and did whatever I wanted to do &emdash; fighting, drinking, stealing. I was content with that because I had no motivation around me, I had people telling me I should be in school yeah, but no one would help me. Not until I got tired and had to help myself. I went to Ombudsman all alone by myself and signed up by myself and found the help I needed. Now standing on this stage in front of everyone I don’t care how anyone feels, but this day is not to be taken lightly. We worked our tails off to get here today. Everyone here, can we just give ourselves a round of applause because after all we’ve endured, we made it.”

“As much as I’ve looked forward to this day I’ve always hated endings, but endings are inevitable, leaves fall, you close a book, you part ways. Today is one of those days today we say goodbye to childhood, to everything that was familiar, that was comfortable to us. We’re moving on and although this is the ending of high school, this is the beginning of us getting a little closer to our dreams and aspirations. Congratulations class of 2018.”


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