Joshua A. Apparicio Swain (photo courtesy of Shirmin Apparicio)

I would first like to Thank God for blessing me with the strength and patience throughout my school days. I am grateful for my Savior walking side by side with me every single day, especially when the days were excruciatingly challenging.

My early graduation flashed before me as I experienced unforeseen setbacks. In 2019, I fell and broke both wrists and was unable to play my music, which I loved dearly. I saw this as a sign from God to slow down as I was attending three schools at the time.

I was able to refocus on God’s promises moving forward and rely on the word of God. From Matthew 6:33, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

Standing on the word of God and His promises to me, I continued working on the investment I made for myself, seeking a higher education. I believe this is why I was able to accomplish what I did. I am proud to be a 2021 High School Honors Graduate, as well as a 2022 Santa Monica College Honors Graduate, receiving an AA Degree at 17-years-old!

I had to work much harder for my Honors status. The Lord said in Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”

Joshua graduated with honors from Santa Monica College on June 11, 2022. (Shimin Apparicio photo)

I would like to also thank my family and friends who’ve encouraged me along the way. Through life’s unexpected challenges, I kept my focus on my studies and on the prize, which was to graduate at 17-years-old from Community College with a degree, so that I could take a year off my studies to regroup and work on an educational path moving forward.

As I continued down my path of Black Academic Success, I saw impossible dreams get closer and possibilities expand. My mom and I watched Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing and we wept together witnessing the cruelty of grown-ups being threatened by an African American woman’s intellect. I understood that intimidation. I continue to encourage myself to be selfish and to invest in my education as I prepare for my future.

The past two years have been especially arduous, being hit by one wave after another of unimaginable challenges, and not only because of COVID-19, which didn’t seem to be going away. I experienced anxiety, depression, isolation and, at times, disconnection. I couldn’t catch my breath. In the midst of coping with remote learning, I found out that my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer and had to undergo surgery.

In spite of all of the unforeseen issues, I stretched myself to my limits in faith and continued to focus on my studies and on my future. I explained to my mom that I prayed for strength to see me through such difficult times as these.

Joshua received an Outstanding Honors Award from Santa Monica College Black Academics Association. (Shirmin Apparicio photo)

I used bullying as my reinforcement to propel me to the next level. I realized the blinders that I used while I was being bullied in school, and re-purposed those hurdles and obstacles into tools and outlets, which I could harness in order to overcome challenges. My hope for the Graduation Class of 2022 is that you take this memorable experience to reach your full potential in whichever area you choose to pursue.

I overcame so many obstacles that were meant to derail me and thwart me from achieving success. My God is in the business of removing all obstacles or anything meant to destroy me on my way to success.

To the young people in the community, keep your head held high. To still be standing after taking on all of life’s obstructions and hindrances means that you have strong will, determination and resolve to achieve greatness.

This is exactly what perseverance and answered prayers looks like. HE said, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God” and HE will give you the desires of your heart. I thank God for blessing me with the parents I have. If He didn’t use them as vessels, I would have a different story to tell.

Remember, “Education is the most powerful tool which you can use to change the world.”

Joshua was also received commedations from the Colburn School of Performing Arts. (Shirmin Apparicio photo)