As I sat down at the table my Y sponsored for the event, I met Hong Tran. Hong is a senior at Mira Mesa high school and was being honored as one of 15 scholarship recipients from the PennySaver (a weekly advertising mailer) and the Y of San Diego County. She was joined by her three cousins that were also in high school. I had purchased the table to give honorees and parents a chance to come to the awards for free. I introduced myself to Hong who was seated on my left. We made small talk – speaking about college applications and her senior year as we waited for the program to begin.
Once the program started, one by one, the 15 honorees were called and asked to say a few words in front of the 300 people in the banquet hall. I glanced at my program and noticed that Hong was last to speak. As she got closer to her turn, she became fidgety. Her knee began to rhythmically bounce up and down and goose bumps formed on her arms. She nervously clutched her hand-written speech in her lap and glanced at it but she didn’t seem to be reading it. In an attempt to calm her nerves, I leaned over and whispered, “If you get up there and forget who to thank, remember, my name is “Matthew.” She laughed out loud. Too loud – as some people turned to see what was so funny. She didn’t notice. Her knee stopped bouncing and she focused on the next to last speaker. Moments before her name was to be called, I whispered once again, “Matthew.” She smiled brightly and as her name was announced she rose from the table and strode confidently toward the podium.
As she reached the podium, she unfolded her speech, looked out into the audience and began to speak…
“I would like to thank PennySaver, the Y of San Diego County, and Matthew…”
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