Not many of us can recall who spoke or what was said at our high school graduation ceremony. It was likely full of encouragement, or at least a few noteworthy quotes, but if the class of 2015 at North Stokes remembers some wise words said at Thursday night’s commencement, they’re already off to a good start.
Principal Nathan Rasey reminded the graduates of their first day in high school four years ago.
“I looked into the eyes of this group when they were freshmen and in some I saw apprehension. I saw fear in the eyes of some. I saw excitement in the eyes of some and there were a few I saw a little bit of cluelessness,” he said. “I told them to take advantage of their high school years because it would go by quickly and here they are. Words cannot express how proud I am of this group. I challenge our graduates to never stop learning, to make good decisions, to live your life with respect, and if you keep these principles in mind you will find that life won’t always be easy, but your reputation and your credibility will stand head and shoulders above all those around you.”
Superintendent Ronnie Mendenhall posed the question to this year’s graduating class, “Can you imagine?”
He asked if the young adults could imagine what life would be like in two weeks or a year from now.
“Can you imagine whether you will still be in touch with your best friend 10 years from now or if other colors than green and white will be dominant in your life in the future? Can you imagine if you will be making a difference in other people’s lives? Can you imagine attending your 30 year class reunion in 2045? Can you imagine having a job where every day you look forward to getting up and going to work because you love your job so much? Can you imagine achieving your goal in life that is the defining point of your life? And now I’m going to give you the answer to that question,” Mendenhall said. “Without any doubt you have heard the words high expectations over the last four years. You have stepped up and met the challenge time and time again. Imagination possibilities become reality when you never quit believing in yourself, then you will achieve great things.”
Teacher and coach Rodney King introduced Katherine Vestal as North Stokes valedictorian.
“Not a day went by that she didn’t enter my U.S. History class without a smile on her face and a chipper voice,” he said. “What really stood out in my mind is her faith and she truly let her light shine on this campus.”
Vestal thanked her family and friends, and those who accepted her when she transitioned into the school as a sophomore.
“Let’s talk about the future,” she said. “By a show of hands who’s going to community college? Cool, it’s cost effective and continuing education. Who’s going into the workforce? Awesome, who said going straight to college is best for everyone? Who’s going into the military?”
An applause broke out for those with their hands lifted.
“Thank you for being willing to serve our country,” Vestal said. “Who’s going straight to a four year college? Good, go for that degree.”
The 18 year old valedictorian then asked her peers to close their eyes and raise their hand if they didn’t have it all figured out yet.
Among the raised hands Vestal did the same and said she had many decisions left to make.
“You’re not alone; I’m in this group too. We have accomplished something not all people get to do for various reasons and we deserve to celebrate. Then, we deserve to go on to lead wonderful, fulfilling lives of our own choosing and I believe that we all have what it takes to make that happen.”
In the event parents were beginning to feel a little teary J.D. Roberson added some comic relief introducing faculty speaker Nick Brandes.
“Hey gang. I’m sure you’re all here because you saw my tweet asking people to come here me speak,” he said.
Brandes read from a letter he’d written his daughter, Scout when she was born.
“Welcome to the world. It’s a big place with lots of types of different people. There are mean people, nice people, tall people, short people. The key thing to remember is they are all people first and when we think of them as people first we should always treat them with kindness,” he read. “Who we are to others is a reflection of what type of person we are ourselves. I can’t wait for you to start learning and when you start learning remember to never stop. It’s how we become better people by learning and understanding what others are and what their struggles might be. Remember if you need help, we’re always here, your mom and I, if we’re not there’s always someone that can help. There’s no shame in asking for help when you need it but don’t let it become a crutch. When you can stand on your own do it. Also, let me apologize for a lot of pain that’s coming. You’re going to have bumps and bruises, some you can see, some you can’t and they aren’t going to be fun. But you have to fall. When we fall it teaches us how to get back up.
“In a world that is as tumultuous as the one you’re entering remember to spread as much good as you can,” Brandes said. “Start young. Start making the world amazing now. Within you lies an amount of potential that is limitless. Now it’s your job to make the world a better place.”
Amanda Dodson can be reached at AmandaTDodson or on Twitter at AmandaTDodson.