The ceremony at A.C. Jones High’s Veterans Memorial Stadium was about more than a piece of paper.
Guest speaker and former Jones High graduate Stephanie Cardwell said, “Graduating high school symbolizes the end of your childhood and the beginning of adulthood.
“It’s now up to you to decide what’s in your future.”
Valedictorian Sarah Draper, during her commencement speech, said, “Everyone takes what they hear and see differently. Life is what you take from it and what you make out of it.”
There is no magic formula for success in the real world.
No longer will there be someone by their sides to prompt them for the answers, and, in fact, they may not know there is even a question before them.
“There was a time a couple of months ago where I wasn’t exactly in the happiest place,” Sarah said. “In fact, I was at the lowest I had ever been, and it had become obvious to everyone around me.”
She wanted no consoling and would meet with resistance anyone who tried.
“And those who noticed had their attempts at soothing me thwarted by my own part-unwillingness, part-inability to be comforted,” she said. “However, I did take note of all those who tried. I saw leadership in them.
“And I grew newfound respect towards my peers as well as support and caring from the staff and one custodian in particular.
“I didn’t get her name, but she knows who she is.
“It helped more than you think it did.”
But that experience helped her grow stronger as a person.
“I feel silly looking back on it, because I am stronger now than I was then. We are all stronger than we once were; we just forget it sometimes,” she said. “Life hits hard. We just have to hit harder when we hit the ground running, stomp harder, stomp faster when we know we can and not slow down.”
Salutatorian Andy Dang echoed her thoughts, saying, “Don’t be afraid of the uncertainty of your future but make a commitment to yourself that whatever you may stumble into, you will rise again to be a greater and stronger individual.”
He recalled the words of Roy Hanus, the school’s calculus teacher, “Life is hard but it is harder when you are stupid.”
He added his thanks to all of the teachers at the school.
“We have been molded and shaped by you and each other, and we now stand ready for the culmination of all our hard work and efforts of the past years, ready to take on the world with all its challenges,” Andy said.
Stephanie, in her remarks, said, “Up until this point, your families and teachers have been major influences on the person you are today.
“However, after today, the choices you make and the experiences you have will sculpt the kind of person you become.
“Regardless of whether you are starting college or a new job, you will get out of the experience what you put into it.”
Sarah paused a second as she related her own views on life to her fellow students.
“One day it dawned on me that we should all be like glass,” she said. “It’s beautiful no matter the characteristics like hue or thickness or texture or shape.
“It withstands heat making it very reliable with cooking—not saying everyone should be a pretty housewife—but that we should all remember our beauty and withstand the heat of situations, coming out resilient and letting ourselves shine in the sunlight, basking in the glory of our work.”
But even this metaphor isn’t perfect, she admits.
“As beautiful as it is, it cracks under pressure, and we all inevitably have pressure in our futures,” she said.
Pressure will come from all angles as each student hopefully strives to fulfill one’s fullest potential.
“Remember what got you to where you are, and push forward,” she said. “Keep pressing—not your luck but your skill and your potential.
“Potential is infinite; once you reach what you didn’t know you had, it keeps rising and rising.
“There is no end to what we can accomplish if we keep looking forward.”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.