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Column: Acknowledging and appreciating our differences

District 518

Principal Karelis, Mr. Rezny, school board, honored guests and fellow classmates: If I may loosely quote this year's musical, "Hairspray," and the ever-talented Miss Cheniqua Johnson, "I know where I'm going because I know where I've been."

As it has been pointed out several times this year, in Worthington --the Woo -- we come from a place with a lot of diversity. But there's something I, and you, too, have noticed that seems to go right over some peoples' heads. Yes, we come from a very ethnically diverse town, but what about the other things that make us diverse? In all honesty, I don't think most of us here see or really even care about what race we all are -- we've been so immersed in it our entire lives that we just don't see it anymore. Instead, let's talk about the other ways in which our school -- our class -- is diverse.

I think you would be hard pressed to find another school that has a student body involved in such an outstanding assortment of activities. The StudCo. co-presidents alone are involved in at least half of the clubs and organizations here. There are music students involved in all three large performing groups, the smaller ensembles of those large groups, and then a sport for each season on top of that. Some of the best athletes are members of the National Honor Society. We don't just break the boundaries here, we demolish them. (Here at WHS we don't say, "Hey, there's that really smart Asian kid in BPA! We say, "Hey, it's Larry!")

We don't see each other for what ethnicity we are, because although it's who we are, it's not, quote unquote, who we are. We are what we do, and as I said, a lot of us do a lot of different things.

We've all seen the movies and the TV shows -- you can stick the jocks, the nerds, the whatevers within seconds of the first cafeteria scene. I like to think that's not true here. Yes, we all have our groups, but I speak from experience when I say that while my group of friends share common interests, in no way are we all identical. We are the artful, the academic and the athletic. It's like a well-balanced meal of teenage life in our cafeteria.

It's one thing to acknowledge the differences and another completely different subject to appreciate them. Nobody here tries to change another person. We all seem to unconsciously know that without superstar athletes, we'd have nobody to play pep band and cheer our throats sore for. Without the genius kids, we would actually have to ask our teachers for help on our Algebra 3 homework. And without freshmen, we'd have to play jokes on each other.

But what does all of this mean for our class, the senior class of 2013? I think it makes us better prepared for what's right out those doors after tonight: Real life. We will soon face a new kind of diversity, and I believe that we young adults from Worthington are more than well equipped to handle what's to come.

Because we have grown up in this diversity, because we have been immersed in it for, if not all, the better part of our lives, it will be no surprise to us when we encounter new and strange things as we start the next leg of our journeys. Right now we are basket-, foot-, tennis, volley-, base-, soft-, and soccer-ballers. We are band players, choir singers and orchestra members. We are the smart, and we are the average. We are the socialites, and we are the homebodies. But in the Class of 2013, we are all of these as one, and if I may say so myself, we do it all "like a 13OSS."

On nights like tonight, we look to the future, and even there we will be a class of diversity. We will be Bluejays, Huskers, Jackrabbits, Vikings, Cyclones, Mustangs, Gophers and who knows what other obscure cartoon-like creatures. We know what we want to do and where we're going in life because we know where we come from -- because our pasts form our futures. "I know where I'm going, because I know where I've been."

I have heard it said by past graduates of Worthington High School that they miss the diverse setting that we've called home for the past four years. And I also know that right now we want nothing more than to get out of here. But let's never forget who we are -- the Trojans -- and let's remember that no matter where we go in life or how far away we roam, we can always return home, to Worthington, to Wootown, for our daily fix of familiar diversity.

Zachary Brandt will attend Augustana, College, Sioux Falls, S.D. He plans to major in English/secondary education and hopes to return to Worthington and teach some day.