Not only was JB Bejarin named Ateneo’s batch 2022 class valedictorian, but the student leader also had to deliver the valedictory address during graduation.
To be the class valedictorian is indeed a major academic feat. This is an honor that Jamesun Wacnang Bejarin, or JB as his friends call him, knows all to well given that Ateneo de Manila University named him batch 2022’s valedictorian.
He was already set to graduate with Cum Laude honors. And not only that, he also gave the valedictory speech at their graduation. It was an achievement that capped what was definitely a memorable college journey for the fresh Political Science graduate. But more than just academic excellence, JB’s valedictory honor was a reflection of this young student leader’s character and conviction.
ON THE HILL
JB, who describes himself as self-aware, striving for kindness as much as he can, and passionate for causes that he believes in, has been in Ateneo more most of his academic life. It began when his parents transferred him to the school when he was in grade two. “They believed that Ateneo would help form me into a servant leader who is a person with and for others,” he shares.
His Ateneo journey continued to high school and eventually college where he decided to take up Political Science for his degree. “I believed that Ateneo’s Political Science program and formation would continue to help me grow into that person—one capable of serving one’s country. I also felt like I still had a mission to pursue and a community to serve in Ateneo. After four years, I feel like I’ve fulfilled what I had set out to do.”
That goal, of becoming a servant leader, followed JB for all his college life. It molded his many decisions, including how he saw his academics. “It was my goal to graduate with honors,” he confesses. “But I understood that being valedictorian is not necessarily aspired for. Rather, being given the said privilege and responsibility is a result of how one lives out the values and aspirations of the Ateneo in the day to day.” More than just getting high grades, JB saw his time at Ateneo as a way for him to become a leader of service to others.
Aside from his studies, JB was also very active in student government. He ran and won in different positions before eventually being elected as student body president, a position he also held when he was in Ateneo high school. “I always enjoyed being of help in class. When I first ran for a batch-wide position, I felt that I could offer ideas and plans to improve the community.” Instead of just focusing on the more mundane student government tasks, JB wasn’t afraid of using his voice and platform to speak out against injustices in society. He embodied what it meant for Ateneans to go down from the hill to be of service to others.
“While my understanding of leadership and structures has evolved over time, my motivation for service remains the same. It remains my hope to transform the communities I find myself in and to encourage the participation of its members in the process.” With this kind of mindset, it’s no wonder than that JB was seen as a top contender for class valedictorian.
BECOMING CLASS VALEDICTORIAN
As graduation season rolled around, Ateneo batch 2022 was understandably excited to graduate. It was made even better by the fact that they would be having an in-person graduation, the university’s first since the pandemic began. Not only was JB getting his AB Political Science degree, but he also graduated as a Cum Laude honor. That though paled in comparison to when he was informed that he was he going to be named class 2022 valedictorian. “It’s hard to explain what I exactly felt then, especially with the surge of people sending their congratulations. But in hindsight, I was humbled, not only by the honor of being named valedictorian, but also the responsibility that came with it.”
After the initial shock and celebration wore off, it was time for JB to write his speech with the help of some of his friends. As he shares, he had three goals in mind for his address, “to give justice to my batch’s experiences, to reflect upon current realities, and to articulate a vision of hope for the future ahead.”
He explains further, “Kaya binalikan ko ‘yung theme ng batch namin noong first year—Tayâ. (That was the theme of their orientation seminar.) I felt that it encapsulated the experiences my batchmates had shared in my consultations with them. It also saw it as an effective call to action. Our batch is not only experiencing changes because of graduation, but also due to political, economic, and socio-cultural factors present in our society. Thus, it is imperative that we do not merely move on, but rather push back as a way of moving forward. This requires to continue taking a chance on ourselves and on causes that go beyond us.”
PATULOY NA PAGTATAYA
The end result was his speech entitle, ”Patuloy na pagtataya: Pushing back as a way of moving forward.” It was a heartfelt speech that not only spoke about the experiences of his batchmates and of himself, but also of how they can best serve society and the country moving forward. “While we cannot determine what the future holds after graduation, hope lies in us choosing to take a chance on ourselves, on our country, and on each other—of pushing back as a way of moving forward,” JB said during the speech.
JB definitely had his work cut out for him as he had to deliver the address in front of thousands. The nervousness though did not get to him. “We practiced the speech for about a month, but delivering it in front of the whole community made it feel surreal. The people who helped me prepare reminded me to enjoy the moment, and I did. It took a lot of effort to articulate the message I wanted to convey to the batch and even the country. So, at that moment, those words were coming from the heart.”
REMEMBER YOUR WHY
As of this writing, JB is currently working on his Masters in Public Management with the goal of pursuing law afterwards. As he looks back on his Ateneo journey, JB feels that his biggest takeaway from the school was how he sees public service. “My biggest take away from Ateneo Senior High was that going beyond one’s self would lead to a life-giving life. After four years of college in the Ateneo, I realize that going beyond one’s self is seen with how one contradicts and transforms the status quo, as this is the ultimate test of one’s ability to sacrifice for the greater good.”
As for the new batches of Ateneans hoping to leave their mark, JB’s advice for them is simple; remember to take a breather. “To those hoping to thrive and grow, my advice for you is to take a step back every once in a while. My high school teacher, Mr. Pagsi, taught us to ‘remember our why.’ Meanwhile, my college mentor, Dr. Melay Abao, often told me to “know what you want.” In hindsight, these helped me remain grounded while seeing the bigger picture more clearly.”