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Upper School Commencement Speaker 2023: Tomas Prendergast

Graduation Thursday, 15 Jun 2023

Xe’ q’ ij (shuc ih)


One of the reasons I value Roycemore is that the faculty and staff encourage us to explore our identities and passions in different ways. This encouragement which is central to Roycemore's mission has allowed each of us to have our own individual stories. 

This is my story. 

I am a K'iche Mayan, born in the highlands of the Quiche mountains of Guatemala, once ruled by the Kaqchikel Maya. 

I was adopted by my Irish parents in Chicago, separated from my culture of origin and the Maya people. I am a combination of 3 cultures: indigenous Guatemalan, American, and Irish. And while at times I have been all of these cultures, I never felt sure if I was fully one of them. 

Roycemore has allowed me to embrace all those versions of myself and specifically, Roycemore has encouraged me to become the young Mayan man I am today. 

As soon as I arrived at Roycemore, I knew I was home. 

It didn’t take long to understand that Roycemore truly wants us to be ourselves. Our teachers know each of us by our personalities and quirks and we know that they always have our backs. You encourage us to think beyond our comfort zones and allow us to explore new areas that we feel passionate about. Teachers recommend classes that we ourselves don't know we will like and help us in and outside the classroom in many ways.

My sense of being Mayan sparked on a family visit to Guatemala in 2018. Seeing Tikal, and the temples standing proudly towards the sky, left me in awe of the achievements of Mesoamerica over 1500 years ago. At that point, I hoped that I could explore in greater detail, that these are my people, this is my culture and this is my history. 

Roycemore has allowed me to do that in many different ways, and to better understand who I am. 

We first studied the Maya in 9th-grade history class, and I was encouraged to explore Mesoamerican ceramics in art class and to do an independent study on Hispanics in Chicago. 

Yet it was the January Short Term (JST) that changed everything. JST is probably my favorite part of Roycemore. Three weeks set aside just for something you are passionate about, where anything is possible. In my case, this involved going to Mexico to understand the relationships between the Maya and other groups in Central America. Though this is my story, I know that my classmates feel the same, as JST allowed them to study topics as wide-ranging as: meditation, the culture of Western Europe, and medical research, in ways that they will continue in college and beyond. 

My advisor Mrs. Byrnes first suggested a JST about the Mayans during freshman year. 

I decided to finally do that JST this past January. A research “vacation” to Central America.

Standing in Museo Nacional de Anthropologia, was a surreal experience. I was surrounded by my people's history which has been overlooked for centuries. 

Standing next to the death mask of the great Mayan leader King Pakal (for the 10th time!) I realized I want to make a career studying the history and artifacts of my true culture. I felt that in the presence of so much history, the spirits of my past were calling me. 

I also thought:  “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn't for Roycemore”. 

The Class of 2023 will be scattered across the country, from coast to coast, in Oregon, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Virginia, New York, Illinois, Michigan, and in my case Minnesota. Yet however far away we will be, we will retain Roycemore as part of ourselves. In my case, this was a critical stage in my understanding of my own identity, but all of us have our own stories. In these journeys, the kindness of the faculty and staff of Roycemore has been key. For this, we are all extremely thankful. 

Roycemores teachers and staff have guided us both educationally and to better understand our commitment to others and to society. 

But we are at the stage where we must make the final jump. The Ancient Kiche Mayan spiritual text is called the Popul Vuh.“Don't wait for strangers to remind you of your duty, you have a conscience and a spirit for that.” 

The Kiche word for thank you is Maltiox (mal-ti-osh), in keeping with how Roycemore has allowed me to find my identity. Let me conclude by saying Maltiox to all the teachers and staff, to my fellow students, and finally, to all the parents and guardians in the audience and beyond. 

Congratulations to the class of 2023! 

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