Graduates told to keep persevering
"This has been the best senior class," Principal Anne Freitag said. "They have been amazing to work with, cooperative, and very supportive of each other. We have had some bumps along the road and they have been problem solvers every step of the way. We are going to miss them."
Some wearing blue robes, others wearing white, but all wearing huge smiles, the graduates greeted friends and family to the sound of an ensemble from the Hinsdale Town Band playing "Pomp and Circumstance" directed by Matt Kennedy.
Taking the podium for the first speech was class President Jennifer Matuszewski. After welcoming friends, family and faculty she addressed her fellow graduates with her brief, but to-the-point, prepared speech, "It's been a long 12 years but, Class of 2017, we finally did it!"
Salutatorian Elizabeth Ryan also had a "short and sweet" speech prepared. She referenced "Our Town" by Thornton Wilder. She went on to describe the play as being about a small town in New Hampshire, much like the Hinsdale area, with arching theme of the brevity of life and not taking advantage of the time we have.
"I am applying that theme to our high school years," Ryan said. "It is easy to say that most every student spends most of their time wishing that they could just graduate already and leave. This is the opposite of what you should do."
She went on to say how the students ultimately find themselves on graduation day, realizing just how much they will miss their peers. "And you find yourself reminiscing on the four years of high school that you went through," Ryan explained. "That is exactly what happened to me." She suggested her fellow graduates take their time, while they have it, and appreciate the small details in life.
The 30 students of the Hinsdale High School Class of 2017 chose teacher Karen Robinson to be their commencement speaker. Robinson, an English teacher at the high school, thanked the students for inviting her to speak. She told them she did not attend her own graduation, "...thus it is with humility that I speak at so sacred an event for the Class of 2017."
Robinson met the students as they entered the eighth grade. Their student-teacher relationship started with Robinson teaching them about Bilbo Baggins in "The Hobbit" and his grand journey, not unlike the journey they were about to embark on as graduates.
Robinson went on to talk about their stressful, question-filled, senior year. "The most looming one being, what's next?"
After reading the graduates' personal narratives, Robinson became aware of the students' personal struggles, both spoken and unspoken, resolved and unresolved. Quoting Maya Angelou, Robinson assured the graduates, "You are enough."
She also reminded them that the origin of the word 'educate' is, "to lead out."
"That is, what was ultimately accomplished, in this case a high school diploma, was done by bringing forth all that was, and still is, inside of you," Robinson explained. "You are enough, as you are, at this very moment. And, you will remain enough for the rest of your life."
Honor essayist and Class of 2017 graduate, Rebecca Gringeri, talked about limitations. Inspired by the quote, "limitations can only be true as long as we believe in them, believe in yourself instead, amazing things will happen" from author and photographer, Doe Zantamata, Gringeri asked her classmates how many of them had said that they couldn't do something because they were from a small place. She assured them that their years at Hinsdale High School were years well spent. She had found herself doubting her ability to achieve her dreams because of her small hometown. She reminded the graduates of all she was able to accomplish once she moved beyond those self-imposed limitations.
Gringeri concluded with, "So, Class of 2017, let me ask you another question: How many of you have accomplished things beyond your limitations? I hope that each and every one of you can say that you have. I hope that you continue to go beyond any limitations and never let anyone tell you that you cannot do it. You all have bright futures ahead of you and I cannot wait to hear about the things you do after Hinsdale High School."
"I have had so many amazing memories with all these students, some of which I have been with since preschool," valedictorian Skye Drake said during her speech. She recollected their first day of high school and how fearful she was. "What if I fail? Am I ready for all this? Will I ever fit in?" Four years, and many memories later, Drake is ready. "I am not afraid anymore. I am prepared to take the world head on and start a new chapter in my life."
Going on, Drake talked about not counting down the days until graduation, but instead, making each day count. "These are the days we are going to remember for the rest of our lives. So, to the Class of 2017, I hope you remain your ambitious selves," Drake said to the crowd. "Go on to live your life making mistakes and making memories. And, most importantly, never forget where you have been, who you are, and where you are going."
After a long applause for the speakers the students were called to the stage, one by one, to accept their diplomas. Tears, laughter, applause, and cheers drowned out the sound of the songbirds, seemingly celebrating for the students from the surrounding trees.
An emotional class vice president, Kyle Rideout, gave the final thank you speech. He spoke about their journey, their futures. He pointed out their collective feelings of dread and anticipation at such an important life change. Rideout asked his classmates to keep persevering in life, no matter what obstacles may come their way.
"After you get through one obstacle another will arise, but what defines you as a person isn't how many obstacles you face, but how you face them," he said.
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