It’s a family tradition for Eric Montez — being named salutatorian.
“The tradition was started by my grandfather, who was salutatorian here in 1949, continued with my great-aunt Carol in 1957 and my aunts Lynn in 1975 and Amy in 1982,” he said.
As is tradition, he thanked many of his family members — those who offered advice and support through his high school years.
“And now to my fellow classmates… thanks for showing me what not to do… from skipping class, to not showing up to school, losing your temper, not doing homework, being laissez faire, and convincing your parents, ‘It wasn’t me,’” he said. “You have truly been an inspiration.”
He spoke to his friends, asking them to not be “one of the crowd.”
“What America needs today is more youth who are willing to be an individual — youth who have the courage to stand up and be counted,” he said. “I challenge you today to be an individual.
“Decide what you believe in and why you believe in it and, above all, don’t be afraid to let other people know about it.
“Have the courage to stand up and say, ‘This is what I know is right.’”
Clay Brown, during his valedictory address, said that he knows inspiration and influences come from everywhere.
“Kelsey, you’re the best big little sister,” Brown said during his speech. “Whether it’s being the loudest person in the stands or helping me write a speech, you’re always there for me.”
No less of an influence was his aunt Rachel.
“When I look at you, I can see in your eyes that your faith in God never decreases,” he said.
“You have taught me to never take life for granted because you never know what it might throw at you.”
As any good son would do, he would never omit his parents in his words of appreciation.
“You were always there to support me whether it was a basketball game or an academic event,” he said of his mom but echoed similar words for his dad.
There were also the teachers who passed along their wisdom and his fellow classmates from whom he learned life lessons.
“I want to also thank my fellow classmates and friends for providing me with great memories that I will never forget,” he said. “Like us guys turning the AG shop into a muffler shop or hard-core stomach aches during baseball practice.”
He, like the salutatorian, congratulated the fellow seniors, adding that this is just the beginning for them.
“Through our accomplishments, we have left tattoos on this town,” he said. “Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, ‘Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.’
“So we too should go forth and blaze our own trails.”