A San Diego high-school student’s valedictorian graduation speech has gone viral after she used parts of it to call out what she saw as disappointing behavior from school staff.
San Ysidro High School senior, Nataly Buhr, took the stage during the June 6 ceremony, where she first genuinely expressed thanks to many of the adults at her school for “being so invested in your students’ education and well-being,” according to CBS8.
Nataly’s speech then took an unexpected turn when she called out — without naming names — certain teachers and administrative staff for failing to set a true example for herself and other students.
“Thanks for teaching me to fend for myself: You were always unavailable to my parents and I, despite appointments,” she addressed her counselor. “You expressed to me your joy in knowing that one of your students was valedictorian, when you had absolutely no role in my achievements.”
Another bit of Nataly’s criticism was aimed at staff in the school’s main office, whom she thanked for “teaching me how to be resourceful” in the wake of their “negligence to inform me of several scholarships until the day before they were due potentially caused me to miss out on thousands of dollars,” The Washington Post reports.
“When applying for a work permit, you repeatedly turned me away, despite confirming with my employer and my parents that all of my paperwork was filled out correctly,” she continued. “I’ve had to escalate issues with staff to an assistant principal various times to reach any sort of solution.”
But perhaps the most shocking moment was when Nataly turned the conversation to “the teacher who was regularly intoxicated during class this year,” which prompted gasps from the crowd.
“Thank you for using yourself as an example to teach students about the dangers of alcoholism. Being escorted by police out of school left a lasting impression,” she said boldly, concluding her speech, “I hope that future students and staff learn from these examples.”
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In a statement to CBS8, Nataly stood by her comments but clarified her speech, noting that “The first half of the speech wasn’t shown on social media posts.”
“In the beginning, I recognized and thanked those who I believe went above and beyond for the students,” she said. “I understand that those I criticized may be facing personal issues, but I don’t think that should affect their commitments or the school’s responsibility to fulfill those commitments. I didn’t expect for change to come from my speech, but I was hoping it would encourage more students to speak up.”
However, a spokesperson for the Sweetwater Union High School District disagreed with the student’s choice of words and told to CBS8 that “it’s unfortunate that the words of a student like this are taking away from the positive” and “there are a lot of teachers working very hard for our students it’s unfortunate that she decided to air grievances.”
But Nataly’s mom, Monica, fully supports her daughter’s actions.
“I was proud that she spoke up and got it out,” she told CBS8. “It is something that takes a lot courage to do.”