The sun shone bright and the sky was clear Saturday as 63 students received their diplomas at the 45th Pocahontas County High School graduation ceremony.
Family, friends, teachers and community members gathered in the PCHS gymnasium to celebrate the class of 2016’s achievements.
Valedictorian Lara Baudler gave her fellow graduates some advice for the road ahead of them.
“It is perfectly fine and even great to be different,” Baudler said. “So, if you ever have a strong opinion that goes against the grain of society – stand up for it, own it and flaunt your viewpoint. Without these differences, we would not be unique. I know sometimes it is hard to meet people with contrasting opinions, but if we were all the same – we would never make any advancements, and quite frankly, we would be boring. The bottom line is, maintain your individuality within the world and broadcast your unique views and ideas so others can learn from you, and open yourself up to others so you can learn from them.”
As Baudler added advice for life in general, she concluded with an analogy, comparing life to a tree.
“The petals are starting to unfold and touch a part of the world for the very first time,” Baudler said. “Each and every blossom is wonderfully unique and special. After awhile, the blossom fades, wilts and an awkward period of the unknown sets in. Then suddenly, without any warning, a fruit begins to grow. The fruit starts out small but continues to flourish as time passes.
“During the developmental stage, there may be some setbacks,” she continued. “A sudden frost may stunt the fruit’s growth or some kind of insect may plague the fruit’s health. Some fruits just aren’t strong enough and don’t quite make it to the end. However, the strongest, most determined fruits are almost ripe and ready to be set free from the tethers of the tree.”
As new graduates, Baudler told her classmates they are like the fruits, breaking free of their tethers to begin the next part of their lives.
“Remember, we are all from the same tree and although we are all going our separate paths, we will always be connected,” she concluded.
Salutatorian Marilyn Creager shared appreciation for the school and her classmates.
“I am thankful for humor,” she said. “With the stress of high school deadlines and challenges I have appreciated a good sense of humor especially in my teachers. I am thankful for the lunch crew. I am thankful for the music at our school. I am thankful for all of our substitutes. I have learned a lot of unconventional knowledge from all of the substitutes that I would have never learned before.”
In his farewell speech, J.D. Hensler gave his fellow graduates advice to make the best of the life ahead of them.
“I know our class is perfectly prepared and more than willing to make the most of these opportunities,” he said. “As we anxiously await our last few moments, I want to share some advice. No matter how far we travel or what we decide to do with our lives, our roots keep us grounded in Pocahontas County. The small town everyone can’t wait to leave, will be the same small town embracing us when we return home.
“Although we are all still very young and have a lot to learn, we are also very powerful and have a lot to show,” he continued. “We have the ability to mentor and be an example to the youth that will follow us, to show them what we did wrong so they can do it right. We are the future of this county, state and country.”
As they enter careers, Hensler said it is important to remember to love what they do.
“No matter the career path you choose to take, own it, pursue it and stay forever passionate for it, but most of all, love what you do,” he said. “Be the person that kids claim they want to be. Be the light in a dark place. Be the change everyone is waiting for. No person has ever changed anything by only wishing it will happen. The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do. Be the difference you want to see in the world. We live in a small place but we can make a big difference. Don’t ever forget to have fun with what you do, life is too short not to. Don’t let yourself say, ‘what if?’ Or ‘I wish I would have done that.’”
Emily Boothe, Jacob Hefner, Caitlin Barnes and Samantha Collins reflected on the class’ past four years at PCHS, and Emily Boothe read “If,” by Rudyard Kipling while Tessa Himelrick translated the poem using sign language.
Matthew Rao gave the invocation and Melissa Murphy and Michelle Murphy gave the address of welcome.
After receiving their diplomas, the class of 2016 left the gym as students for the last time, exiting to the tune of “Back Home,” by Andy Grammer.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org