Speeches from Valedictorians and Salutatorians

Top Students Share Wisdom at June 12 Graduation Ceremonies
Posted on 06/17/2020
This is the image for the news article titled Top Students Share Wisdom at June 12 Graduation CeremoniesFor those unable to attend the graduation ceremonies on June 12, here’s a look at the wisdom shared by school valedictorians and salutatorians from each of the four high schools as they addressed their peers and the community.

Dresden valedictorian Natalie Weidenbach
It is September 2001. The twin towers have been hit and are burning. Sorrow and grief has taken over our nation. Many people fear what may happen next. Our parents? They fear for us, their children that are being welcomed into this world during such an uncertain time.

Natalie WeidenbachFlash forward 19 years and the coronavirus has overtaken the world as a pandemic. Fear engulfs many. People’s lives are put to a halt as businesses, cities, and states shut down. And our senior year was unexpectedly cut short.

Now, I could sit and talk about things we missed out on because of the events that have taken place during our lives and focus on the negatives but that wouldn’t do any of us good. Today, I choose to look at the bright side, like the fact we are gathered here today celebrating what we have been working hard towards for the past 13 years. We finally made it.

Through these 13 years, we have shown ourselves, our community, and our nation that we, the class of 2020, cannot be slowed down. We have shown everyone, including ourselves, that we are bound to live a life worth living. The first reason I know we have shown that we are bound to live a life worth living is the fact that we do what we love and love what we do. We each fully understand that we only get one shot at this thing called life because of the events we have witnessed so we might as well spend it doing something we enjoy.

1 Corinthians 16:13-14 says “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” Let us not be afraid of what others say. Take the risk, work hard, do what you love and live a life worth living.

Secondly, we constantly strive for happiness for ourselves and others, as well. Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 says, “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.” While we have seen that life isn’t always full of sunshine and rainbows, we know if we choose to seek happiness, then we will always be able to find the silver lining during the storm while living a life worth living.

Lastly, we work with passion. Because we choose to work with passion, we will never get tired of doing what we do. Oprah Winfrey says, “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” We are each given our own role in this crazy world, so if we perform our role with passion, it will not only be fulfilling to us as individuals but other people will be able to experience the fruit of our labor while we live a life worth living.

We have all seen how crazy things can get around us and how quickly our everyday lives can change. But these things have only proven how strong and resilient we truly are. Because of the circumstances we have faced growing up, we have learned how to be flexible in any situation and are able to bounce right back when catastrophe strikes. We have seen that money doesn’t mean everything, but character does. And, most importantly, we know that we will gain more satisfaction by living our lives to please ourselves and God rather than for other people.

Dresden High School class of 2020, I challenge you to live a life worth living. Pray during the highs and lows of life and give glory to God. Sing up to the heavens and be thankful for what you have been blessed with. Thank a farmer and lend a helping hand. Never let the greed and selfishness of the world overtake you. And remember what Psalm 16:8-11 says, which is “I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” In doing so, each of us can live a life worth living.

Dresden salutatorian Dryver Finch
After 13 years. After 4,745 days. After 16,380 class periods. We’ve made it to this day. The day we’ve been waiting so long for: the beginning of the rest of our lives.

Dryver FinchBefore I get started, I would like to say the appropriate thank you’s.
• First, to our families who have always supported us and cared for us at home.
• Next, to our faculty and staff who worked to make a home for us here at Dresden High School.
• Lastly, to the friends that made us feel at home no matter where we were or what we were going through.
I know I do not speak for just myself when I say that each and every one of you have played a part in shaping who I am today.

Now, when I was googling “how to write a graduation speech,” the first thing that WikiHow suggested was to avoid clichés and overused topics. Because of that, I will not make any reference to “the real world”, the covid-19 pandemic, or, for those who attended the 2018 DHS graduation, I will not compare our graduates to ground beef.

What I will do, however, is share a bit of the wisdom my short 18 years have given me. If I had to pick one piece of advice or universal truth to share with you all it would be this:
• Truly listening to and considering perspectives different than your own leads to understanding. Understanding leads to empathy. And empathy is the beginning of healing and progress.
So, let us do a little practice:
• Today I am going to ignore WikiHow and address different perspectives on 3 cliché sayings and what we can learn from each to live a better life.
• Now how cliché is that?
The first phrase I would like to talk about is the idea that “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”

We have all heard this phrase been used before. It usually means that you shouldn’t spend your time wishing you were in someone else’s situation because you never know what life is really like for them, or you may just miss out on the great things you already have.
While this is great advice, I think I can do you one better (or 3 betters, actually):
• First of all, just as Big Sean tells us in Justin Bieber’s “As Long as You Love Me”, the grass is green where you water it.
o Sometimes, even when situations seem impossible, we are put through trials that force us to adapt and grow. These are the situations where we can water our own grass.
 We must be able to recognize when there is some hope left and there is a possible light at the end of the tunnel.
• However, we must accept that sometimes all we have is concrete, and there is no hope for any grass to grow.
o Do not be so optimistic that you become naïve.
o Whether it be a toxic relationship, a dead-end on your journey, or a path that has you spiraling downward, there will be situations in your life that are only going to get better by pressing the eject button.
o I wish I had a definite set of signs that will tell you when there is grass to water or when your best bet is to hop the fence, but the difficult reality is that we may never know.
o But that is what makes this next idea so important.
• You have to realize when you’re on the good side of the fence, and either help those on the other side to water their grass, or help them get on your side when all they have left is concrete.
o Even when things are going great for you and someone else’s problems don’t directly affect you, it is always important to be aware and understanding of how difficult other’s situations are.
o And, when you can, it is imperative that you help those people out. Whether it be working to make their life a little better or helping them out of situations that you know are not good for them, caring for others sometimes means sacrificing your time and resources to help them out.
o The Apostle Luke tells us: “Give, and it will be given to you . . . for with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
Life is not always easy. It takes maturity to know and realize your situation. It takes guts to make a change. It takes compassion to lift others up, especially when it means lowering yourself.

The next common saying I would like to address is “it is what it is” or, loosely translated: “it be like that sometimes”.
• This saying can either be extremely healthy mentally or the exact opposite.
Sometimes bad things will happen in your life that are out of your control. Sometimes it simply is what it is. There’s no changing it and worrying about it will not help.
• One of the hardest things to accept is that some things are just out of our control. It is in these situations where we let go of our desire to foster an outcome and let God take over from there.
For every situation that you have no control over, however, there are more times when our actions and decisions can have a considerable effect on the outcomes.
• In these situations, saying “it is what it is” shuts off all possibility for progress or change. It does not always have to be “what it is”.
• When life throws you a curve, you cannot just reject all accountability and accept defeat. When the going gets tough, you must get tougher.
The most challenging obstacles we face in life are not individual hurdles, but rather obstacles presented by an unchanging system in an ever-changing society. But in these most difficult circumstances, we often find we are not the only ones fighting for change.
• Throughout American history, there have been many instances where injustices were prevalent due to a faulty or corrupt system. In these difficult times, people fought for justice because they refused to believe “it is what it is”.
• Slavery in America did not end overnight. It took abolitionists such as Fredrick Douglas, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and countless others to fight for what is right, even when the opposition was fierce.
• For women to get the right to vote, it took decades of work from suffragettes like Elisabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Ida B. Wells to form organizations and lobby for change.

We have come a long way since these days, but nevertheless we do not live in a perfect world; we have a long way to go. Even as we continue to adapt and evolve as a society and the system remains complacent, no matter what daunting obstacles we face, there will always be others standing by us who are tired of hearing “it is what it is”.

Which brings us to the last phrase: “Leave it better than you found it.”

Usually this phrase has no deep meaning at all – it literally means clean up after yourself. However, I believe this saying can be spun to mean so much more.
• First, we should leave our world better than we found it – and I do not just mean the environment (even though that is important too).
o Leaving our world better than we found it is similar to the idea of saying that world doesn’t have to be “what it is”.
o Gen Z (our generation) is often stereotyped as a technology-dependent group that is lazy and has had most everything handed to us. We have been told we are not serious enough, that we cope with global issues through memes.
o I enjoy a good meme as much as the next guy, but our generation is so much more than that.
o After the murder of George Floyd, I saw a generation that was fed up with seeing the same injustices over and over again. I saw a generation that flooded Tiktok not with dance videos, but with strong messages speaking out against a broken system. I saw a group of 6 teenage girls in Nashville organize a protest, bringing over 10,000 people to speak out against racial inequality.
o We have inherited a world with a lot of problems, but I am confident our generation will work to leave this world in a better state for generations to come.
• Next, and arguably most important individually, we should leave each person we encounter better than we found them.
o The possibilities for this are limitless. It could be as simple as giving someone a compliment when they look down, giving a friend a hug, or just letting those around you know you are there for them by actually being there.
o An important aspect of any person’s legacy is less about what they accomplished and more about how they treated people.
o There isn’t enough time in the day or room in the world for more hate.
o We need more love in the world. And that starts with each one of us as individuals.
o The apostle John writes, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”
Leaving this world and those around us better than we found them starts with you and me. It’s a long journey, but together, through love, I know it can be done.

Hopefully, the bits of wisdom I have shared with you tonight were worth your time and may have even the smallest impact on your future.

I am going to leave you with one last idea that I try to live every day by:
• Too often, when life gets difficult or our plans go south, we ask the question, “Why me?”
o Not only does this question scream “pity me” but it also challenges the all-knowingness and divine plans of God.
• So today and every day forward I challenge you to ask a different question: “Why not me?”
o Someone has to win. Someone has to be first. Someone has to spark change in the world. Someone has to show love to their neighbors.
o Why not me?
o Why not you?
o Why not us?
Thank you.

Gleason valedictorian Martha Nichols
Martha NicholsWell, Class of 2020, there were times when we thought this night would never come, and then we REALLY thought this night would never come...but I want to once again say how grateful I am to finally be here tonight, and I could not be more honored to represent Gleason School as the Valedictorian of our class. Our 12-year journey of education comes to an end tonight, and some of us will continue into further education, whether it be to college or a technical school, some of us will serve in the armed forces, and some of us will embark on the journey into the workforce. Regardless of what your plans are from now on, tonight we celebrate the beginning of a new chapter in our lives, turning the page on our time as Gleason Bulldogs. In these halls, we shared laughs, attended many sporting events, rushed to make it to first period because you might’ve been running a little late, and, most importantly, we made memories that will last a lifetime.

Unfortunately, our time together as a class was cut short on March 16th, the day that we walked these halls for the last time as students, without even knowing it would be the last time. Without realizing it, we rushed to first period for the last time, we had meaningless conversations with our friends at lunch for the last time, we complained about being at school for the last time, and at the end of the day, we said goodbye to our friends and left Gleason School as students for the very last time. I think it’s safe to say that the following days were a rollercoaster of emotions for all of us. Many of us said for probably the first time ever, “I just wish I could go back to school.” Realizing we would miss so many “lasts” like field day, the senior picnic, field trips, and what was supposed to be our final goodbye on the last day was extremely difficult to process.

It was, and still is, very easy to be angry or bitter about the way our senior year ended because it was unpredicted and honestly just unfair. We went from wishing our final days of high school would fly by to wishing we could have it all back in a matter of days. Although our situation was less than ideal, the sadness of missing out on the end of our senior year will pass; we will reconnect and catch up with our friends, we will begin a new journey in life, the pain we have felt will fade, and this part of our lives will simply become a story to tell our families and friends in the years to come.

However, there are some things that will stick with us. We will never forget the memories we made with one another, the educators who impacted us along the way, and of course the community of Gleason as a whole. Together we’ve learned several lessons and had meaningful experiences in our time at Gleason School; in elementary school we learned to make friends and began building the foundation of our educations through grueling tasks such as multiplication tables and spelling tests. In middle school, we juggled 13-year-old drama and awkward phases, all while worrying if we could possibly make it to our next class within the five minute period. And, finally, in high school, we began to prepare ourselves for the future, and we became more responsible… well, for the most part. So, though the sadness of our current situation will not last, I hope that the lessons we have learned will last.

The message I want to give you all tonight is quite simple, but very important: Life is short and very unpredictable. What’s here today can easily be gone tomorrow. So hug your friends and loved ones tightly and let them know you appreciate them, never take a normal for granted, and most importantly, never stop chasing your dreams. Life is too short to say “I’ll do it tomorrow” or “Maybe some other time.” I encourage each of you to figure out what happiness and success look like for you, and then go out and chase after that dream, and don’t look back. Don’t wait for tomorrow, or next month, or next year, because, as we have all learned in the past few months, nothing in this life is promised. Class of 2020, the future belongs to us, and the world is ours to shape, so go out and chase your dreams, and be the best version of yourself that you can be. We have accomplished so much as a class, and tonight we celebrate those accomplishments. The night that we have prepared for the past twelve years has finally arrived, and I am proud to have reached this milestone alongside a great group of classmates. While I am saddened that our paths will soon separate, I am certain that we are all onto greater things.

In closing, I’d like to leave you all with a simple quote from the famous Dr. Seuss: “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.” As we close this chapter of our lives tonight, I won’t cry because of what we lost or what we never had, but I can certainly smile because of the friends and memories that Gleason School has given me. Congratulations Class of 2020. I wish each of you all the best the world has to offer, and for the very last time, S-E-N-I-O-R-S, senior seniors, we’re the best.

Gleason salutatorian Katie Freeman
Hello everyone! It’s great to see all of you here tonight and it’s an honor to be speaking as the salutatorian of our class. Despite how crazy this year has been there is one thing that I would not change and that’s the class I am graduating with, I am extremely honored to be sharing this achievement with all of you.

Katie FreemanWe have overcome many difficulties to get to this moment. Obviously, we are in the midst of a global pandemic, which has both created new challenges and illuminated old ones. Through it all, we must remember that challenge is a catalyst for change! There’s a lot wrong in our world today, and it’s our responsibility, Class of 2020, to help create solutions that benefit ALL of humanity - not just the part that looks like us, speaks like us, thinks like us. We are in this together! It won’t be easy but if we’ve learned anything our senior year, it’s that we are now uniquely prepared to persevere. Our ability to do hard things will serve as a springboard for our future success and the world will benefit.

What should that success look like? Let’s be honest. By our society’s standards, greatness is defined by a person’s wealth, power, and prestige. That’s a flawed, incomplete definition - Some of the happiest and healthiest people on the planet have far less material wealth than we enjoy here in the United States. They don’t own designer clothes, but they’re happy. They don’t live in big houses, but they’re happy. What’s the secret to their success? The answer lies in their priorities. Above all, they value family, faith, and community. They value people over things. For many of us, 2020 has been a reminder of what’s most important - each other. As we leave this place, I truly hope that we all have enough stuff - there’s nothing inherently wrong with owning things - but let’s be intentional in our efforts to build lives that reflect great values. And most importantly, let’s always choose love. Let’s choose love over hate. Let’s choose love over indifference. Choose love over ignorance. Love over fear. Love over barriers and over borders … If we choose love over and over, we will know success - and we will leave the world better than we found it. Our former First Lady, Michele Obama, said it well, “Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.”

As we consider our own success, let’s not forget those who made it possible. Sure, we have all worked really hard to get here but none of us arrived on our own. We have all been carried to this point on the shoulders and in the arms of others. So, thank you, friends and family, for loving, supporting, and encouraging us. Thank you to our teachers, administrators, cafeteria workers, janitors, bus drivers, office personnel, and everyone else at Gleason High School who helped make our time here the best it could be. And to the Class of 2020, thank you for inspiring me. Watching all of you work hard in difficult times to achieve your dreams has encouraged me to do the same.

In closing, it is my hope that we will remember 2020 not as the year that should have been canceled but as the year that inspired us to create much needed, long overdue, lasting, loving change.

Greenfield valedictorian Lydia Hazlewood
Lydia HazlewoodGood evening guests and classmates. I would like to begin by reflecting over the past 18 years. You have been in school now for 2,340 days and spent 12,960 hours in class. So far, you’ve lived approximately 18 years. You have been breathing for 936 weeks and going through the motions of life for 6,570 days which is 9,460,800 minutes. And just think 18 years ago YOU WERE WRINKLED, RED, BALD, TOOTHLESS, CRYING, HELPLESS, AND NAKED. Well.... I’d say you’ve come a long way baby! You’ve reached a milestone. But this is not the end... It's just the beginning!

I would like to take the time to thank some people who have helped the class of 2020 along the way. I would like to start with our parents, grandparents and guardians. Thank you for all the love and nurturing and for supporting us in our academic and extracurricular activities. Next, I would like to thank the faculty and staff of Greenfield school for their guidance the past 13 years. Thank you for everything that you have done to help us learn the material we needed to know. Lastly, I would like to thank the community for their endless support in our sports and academics. As we look to our future, we can move forward in confidence because we have been well equipped.

I would like to take a moment to give the class of 2020 some advice. As you begin the next chapter in your life, make sure to seek God’s guidance in all that you do. As Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. Think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.” After you get your life headed in the right direction, continue to seek God’s guidance. Then trust God to see you through the ups and downs of your journey. Along the journey of life, be nice to everyone and pick your friends wisely as they will have great influence on your future. Also, I encourage you to set goals for yourself and work hard to achieve them. You cannot sit around and wait on a ship that you have never sent out.

In closing, I would like to tell each of you that I love you and wish you the best as you begin this next chapter of life. Congratulations

Greenfield High School Class of 2020! We did it! Let’s go out into the world and make a difference one milestone at a time.

Greenfield salutatorian Kassidy Harris
Oh how quickly 13 years have come and gone. It seems like yesterday my classmates and I were putting on our caps to graduate kindergarten. Now here we are. The day that every child wishes would come sooner, Graduation Day. We as the Greenfield Class of 2020 have definitely made our mark on both Greenfield School and our Nation’s History.

Kassidy HarrisOur success throughout our lives thus far would not have been possible without the outpouring of knowledge, guidance, and support from our families and the faculty and staff here at Greenfield School. A well-deserved spotlight goes to our parents, guardians, and families. They are our biggest fans, motivators, and supporters. Without your love and guidance, some might not be sitting here today, so Thank You to every individual who has played a part in getting us to where we are today.

Teachers, on behalf of the Class of 2020 Thank You! Thank You for teaching and pushing us towards success even when we were not quite ready to learn. Your flood of knowledge has truly prepared us for this new chapter we are all about to begin in life.

As this chapter of our lives closes, we have to face the future. Some may fear the unknown. However, I do believe our class has what it takes to stand as the future of our nation. One of my favorite bible verses is Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

During our past four years of High School, we have witnessed many monumental achievements. Some of those achievements include: three trips to the glasshouse, two trips to the football state playoffs, an appearance to the tennis state tournament, and for three years in a row the junior classes have had the highest ACT average in the county.

Although our senior year was cut short, it is bittersweet knowing we will always have these friendships and memories. It has been my pleasure to be a part of such a memorable class. Fellow classmates, each and every one of you has such bright future. I truly believe you can do anything you want in life if you just set your mind to it. I wish you all the very best in life and hope you achieve everything you have always hoped for!

As senior class president, I would like to present this podium on behalf of Greenfield High School’s Class of 2020. This gift not only represents the Class of 2020, but through construction of the podium, wood from the old gym has been used to accent our gift. Our hopes are that this podium will stand as a representation of past, present, and future students.

Westview valedictorian Cate Spencer
Family, friends, administration, welcome.
To my fellow classmates, congratulations. We made it.

Cate SpencerFirst, I’d like to thank my family for their never-ending love, support, and encouragement throughout my school career. I couldn’t have done this without you.

To our friend and classmate, Reed Butler, this is your graduation ceremony as well. We miss you. My heart goes out to his family. Thank you for raising him to be such a great young man and for sharing him with us. He will live on forever in our hearts and will always be part of the class of 2020.

I’d also like to say thank you to all the teachers, administrators, coaches, and staff that have helped us get to where we are today. We are truly grateful for the influence you have had on our lives.

This day has been on our minds since the day we started high school. I know this graduation is different than any of us imagined and many of our loved ones aren’t able to be here with us, but I would like to thank everyone who made this ceremony possible.

Winston Churchill once said, “Kites rise highest against the wind – not with it.” Let us remember that when we think back on this part of our senior year. These past few months haven’t been what we expected. We all expected to get to say our goodbye’s, eat one last lunch together, and play spring sports. Some important moments may have been taken from us, but they don't define us. We can’t let them define us.

You never know what life is going to throw at you. That’s why it’s important to look back on and appreciate the high school career we did have.

I think we can all agree that we made memories at Westview that we will cherish forever. We made friends, learned how to navigate the world of high school, cheered on our football team on Friday nights, went to state championships, and competed in events for band, cheer, and clubs. We started to get a sense of who we are as individuals and what we want our futures to look like.

And Class of 2020, our futures are here. They start now and they are bright.

When I think about the future, I can get overwhelmed by all the uncertainty that lies ahead, but I do know that God has big plans for all of us. Jeremiah 29:11 says, ‘“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”’

Someone once said, “Go Everywhere, Study Everything, Fear Nothing”. This describes what happens after today. We will all take different paths in life. Some of us are staying here in Martin for college, others are going off. Some of us will jump straight into the workforce and others will take some time to figure everything out. A few of us are going into the military, and I want to thank you for doing so and for the sacrifices you are making.
Regardless of what path we choose to take, I know that each one of us will do great things. We will achieve our goals, have countless opportunities, and fulfill our dreams. More importantly, we will make a difference in this world.

And Class of 2020, the world is ours. Explore it, have fun, find love, and enjoy life.
As we move into this next chapter, I encourage all of you to live life to the fullest, to stand up for what you believe in, and to always be kind.

In closing, I’d like to recite the chorus to a Sidewalk Prophets song. Class of 2020, these are “The Words I Would Say “…
Be strong in the Lord and
Never give up hope.
You’re gonna do great things,
I already know,
God’s got His hand on you so,
Don’t live life in fear,
Forgive and forget,
But don’t forget why you’re here,
Take your time and pray,
These are the words I would say.

Thank you.

Westview salutatorian Will Spencer
Will SpencerGood evening, faculty, staff, families, and my classmates:
First, I need to thank my loving family, as I would not be in this position without them. I don’t mean to brag, but I don’t think anyone has a mother and sister that care as much as them. I also need to thank my church family. They say “It takes a village,” and I think I am living proof of that this is truth.

Second, as I sat down to write my speech with a mechanical pencil on a piece of notebook paper much later than I should have started, I thought, “Wait, have they tricked me into doing another assignment?”

Third, I would like to say once and for all that Valedictorian, Cate Spencer and I are not related. We are just two people with brown hair and glasses with the last name Spencer. Congratulations, Cate!

In all seriousness, though, I would love to share some thoughts before we all go our separate ways in life. Don’t worry- I’ll keep it brief. I do not want into stereotypical graduation speech clichés. So just sit back for the next 93 minutes, and we’ll get out of here quick.

Okay, in real seriousness, I feel an incredible amount of honor and am very humbled to hold the position of Salutatorian for our class. I do not want to say that I am representing our class because your achievements represent and add value to our class just as much, if not more, than my own. I never made All West or State or for band, scored a touchdown in football, or won a medal at FFA State. These individual accomplishments from each one of us has brought glory to our class and school. I respect and adore everyone here for your unique contributions to us as a people.

We do all deserve to pat ourselves on the back. I mean, we did it guys: we graduated! We deserve a small pat. We studied far into the night, practiced far into the afternoon, and worried and fretted far into the day. But we have finished high school in one piece. Our skills and talents have helped us cross the finish line. So, go ahead, give yourselves a small pat!

However, we also owe our achievements to our school and each other. For me personally, I could not be in this position without our school, which is composed of its faculty and staff, and you, of course. We were educated in an environment that cares about its students. The type of place where after Coach Rutledge spends five minutes explaining something to you in class and you told him you understood it, he continued to explain because he could tell you still needed help. The type of place where Mrs. Glover goes out of her way to compliment you because she can tell the world can use a little more love. The type of place where Mrs. Marie and Mrs. West greet you with a friendly smile and, in my case once, give you a Tide wipe after you spilled your lunch on yourself, just because they love to spread kindness. The type of place where Mr. Tucker does everything in his power to make you stay in band because he understands the value of a family away from home. These are just a few examples, but there are so, so, so many. I am so completely grateful for the environment that has nurtured us to success.

And are we perfect? No, but no one is. But this is the process of taking a hold of our identities and becoming better together. We are the archetypal coming-of-age story. Clueless, The Edge of Seventeen, and The Breakfast Club have all been about us, and we didn’t even realize it. We have had the unique experience of growing up together. We have laughed together, cried together, and done everything else in between. We learned from one another and looked out for each other. We all brought something unique to table, and we got to feast from this table of knowledge to learn more about ourselves and the world. We nurtured each other to success and were totally unaware of it.
However, we are on the next stage of our journey to self-discovery and becoming better people. We will move on but never forget our time together. We got to enjoy and benefit from our school and one another, whether we knew it or not. Now, it is time to move on to the real world. So, in conclusion, which I have been told by countless English teachers is a cliché and should be used sparingly but the emotional catharsis is too great to give up in this case, enjoy the people in your lives. They are what guide us and give us strength. As the coming-of-age king Ferris Bueller would say,” Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around occasionally, you could miss it.”

I’m Will Spencer. I’m your Salutatorian, and you are my amazing and valuable people, class, and school. You are great! Stay that way. Thank you.