Column: Last challenge for WHS grads - letting goEditor’s note: The following was delivered by the author, a graduating senior, during the May 18 Worthington High School graduation ceremony.
By: Claire Bents, District 518, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Mr. Karelis, Mr. Rezny, Class of 2012, staff, friends, and family: Welcome to the 125th Worthington High School Commencement Ceremony. There is a familiar Chinese proverb from 6th century B.C. that I’m sure many of you have heard before. It was written by Lao-tzu, and states that “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” As many members of this class can tell you, it has been a long journey to get to graduation. Tonight, I’d like to reflect on our journey a little bit.
The adventure of 13 years began for most of us on the first day of kindergarten. Do you remember our early school years at Central Elementary, with the tree house in the library and the roller rink in the basement? The tree house in the library was a towering three stories tall, and many of us felt like we were an elite member of a select society if we had scaled it all the way to the top. After our brief time at Central came the move to a brand new school, Prairie Elementary. Remember going for a tour of the school for the first time, and running around in the gym with all of the lights off? How about walking down the hallway in single file, and jumping over the yellow tiles because they were “lava”? Do you recall the first time we played on the new playground equipment? Or finally being in fifth grade, and ruling the school?
Following the elementary part of our journey was the upgrade to the middle school. For a while it had a maze of lockers that were the color of mac and cheese, and a big hill to roll down during recess. Do you remember the first time you purchased a giant cookie from ala carte, or changed into different clothes for Phy. Ed? How about the time in life when anything could be settled over a game of four-square? Or when we got our eighth grade choir concert canceled because of a tornado? Whether you had your first dance or your first time playing a sport during middle school, we all left WMS as very different people than when we entered
Finally, we ended up here, at the high school. In this place, we got to finally choose classes, whether they were A.P. Calculus, Foods & Nutrition, or You & The Outdoors. We have been able to pick activities that interest us, including painting or cooking, or something ag- or tech-related. We have also pulled together to support one another, whether it was cheering on the basketball teams at state, or sitting around a table at Perkins working on homework for American Authors.
Throughout the years of our expedition together, we have had many “firsts.” We’ve all experienced the first day in a new school, with new teachers, new classes and new students. Many of us have gotten to drive for the first time, and possibly gotten our first speeding ticket. Some of us remember our first best friend, and maybe they are still a good friend of ours today. Several have experienced our first romantic relationship, and maybe our first breakup and taste of heartbreak. Some have taken advanced classes, and had our first experience with college or AP tests. Others have taken foreign language classes, and hope to study abroad someday. Whether it’s the first time starting on a varsity sport, or even the first time playing a musical instrument, throughout the course of this voyage that we’ve been on, we have experienced many new opportunities. These firsts have sometimes led to seconds, and have gradually shaped our interests, our friends and ourselves to where we are today.
This ride hasn’t always been easy, though. Like every journey, it has had its struggles. Think back to the most challenging moment of the past 13 years. Maybe it was finally passing a grad test, or getting your driver’s license. Perhaps it was finally hitting a home run, or perfecting your free throw. It could have been memorizing facts, or recalling band music. Maybe it was narrowing down the list of potential careers or colleges, whittling away until only a few remained. Or perhaps it was resisting the temptations of drugs or alcohol, or having the courage to discontinue the use of them. For some of us, the hardest part has been persevering through to the end. But guess what? We’ve stuck it out, and have made it. There’s one task left on this trip, though. I know, another one, right? This last difficulty will be very complicated for some, but will happen very rapidly for others. For some of us, it has happened a LONG time ago. This final challenge is the process of letting go. After tonight, many of us won’t see each other again. Some of us will keep our bond of friendship as strong as ever, while others will slowly drift away from us on this vast ocean that is life. As you continue with your life, remember our class quote, written by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” Behind us now are high school events, such as football games, musical performances and FFA competitions. Still before us are our goals for ourselves, including college educations, military service, or careers such as teachers or lawyers. Hopefully as we continue on our own personal paths throughout the rest of our lives, we will retain what currently lies within us: the memories of these past years, and the lessons that we have learned throughout this journey.
In a few minutes, we will be walking across that stage. Our passage together will have ended, but the rest of our lives have yet to begin. I ask you, as you leave this building tonight, say “hi” to an old friend, and reminisce about all of the things that you’ve made it through, and about all of the memories you’ve made throughout the course of the last 13 years. As one journey comes to a close, the other shall begin with a single step as we leave the stage as alumni of Worthington High School. So, Class of 2012, smile — we’ve made it! Thank you.