COMMENCEMENT AT MENNO: âTHE BEGINNING OF OUR LIVESâ
JEREMY WALTNER – PUBLISHER
Thirteen seniors said their formal and collective farewell to Menno High School on Saturday afternoon, May 14 in a graduation ceremony that was marked by humor, reflection and sense of appreciation for the time they spent at the school to which they were saying goodbye.
This year’s commencement included all the elements that have come to be expected on such occasions: Pomp and Circumstance was played on the piano as the students entered; administration offered words of welcome and recognition and video showing photos and video was projected on a screen; seniors, parents and other family members fought off tears during the presentation of flowers; and in their final formal act at Menno High School before walking out of the gym and into a brave new world, tassels were turned and hats were tossed, closing the book of a long and colorful story.
A small sampling of that story was told by three graduates who spoke at Saturday’s commencement: Raygen Diede, student council president; Kaelea McCoy, president of the National Honor Society; and Bridget Vaith, senior class president.
“The journey wasn’t easy, but luckily for us we have had, not only faculty members, but also friends, family, and community members supporting us along our way, and I am always thankful for that,” said Diede. “Through these 13 years our class has gone through many stages. Classmates have come and gone, each adding something different.”
Diede reflected on recesses during elementary school, the journey from middle school to high school, memorable moments with teachers in classrooms and the quick arrival of the Class of 2022’s final year.
“Sophomore year was cut short from Covid and then it seems like we just skipped to our senior year,” she said. “The memories at Menno High will forever be a part of us. Many lessons have been taught and learned. This may be the end of our time here at Menno High, but this really is the beginning of our lives.”
McCoy acknowledged the support of famlily, friends, the entire school system and larger Menno community “who have been with us every step of the way.” And she reflected on the leap from the world of high school to legitimate adulthood.
“After today, we are no longer considered kids; we are full-fledged members of society,” she said. “We’re supposed to have a plan and know what we want to do with our lives. That’s a lot of pressure for a bunch of 18-year-olds. A week ago, I still had to ask if I could use the bathroom. Now, I’m expected to make major life decisions on my own. Man, that escalated quickly.”
McCoy noted that the next chapter will be different for everybody and will likely change based on life’s unpredictable circumstances.
“Some of us are going to switch majors, some of us are going to switch jobs, some relationships will come and go,” she said. “We’re all going to make mistakes and that’s OK because we’re all going to be better people for it.”
The one thing that will always bind the students, McCoy said, is that they are members of the Class of 2022.
“I am sad about this adventure of ours coming to an end, but I am so excited to see where the next one will take each of us,” she said. “I truly believe that each one of us graduating today has a bright future ahead and will do amazing things in life.”
In her address, Vaith noted how fast it all went.
“It seems like only last week we were building cities in kindergarten, on Monday we started middle school — thinking we owned the world — just yesterday we started our first day of freshmen year, and only two hours ago we started our last first day of high school,” she said. “Kenny Chesney truly said it best when he sang, ‘Don’t blink.’ High school seemingly goes by so slow until you look back and realize it’s almost over. And though it was fast, I think it’s safe to say our entire high school experience was worth it — interesting and fun — but so worth it.
And Vaith offered an extended thank you to those who supported them in their journey.
“These big dreams and amazing goals each of us have wouldn’t even be a possibility for us if not for the help of everyone around us,” she said. “To our parents, thank you for the never ending support, love, and all of those last-minute late-night desserts for fundraisers we forgot to tell you about. To our teachers, elementary school and up, thank you for taking every stuck-out tongue, spitball and sassy comment with as much grace as you could muster. You really dealt with us the best you could. Thank you to our siblings, whether older or younger, for modeling the strength it takes to fall down and stand back up while navigating both high school and the future ahead. Hopefully we can model the same to younger generations.
“Thank you to our coaches who always pushed us to excel both on and off the court. I think it was you who saw both the best and the worst of us — sometimes in one practice. Thank you to the community members. I know it’s cliché, but it truly does take a village to raise a child, and Lord knows the amount of times we pushed this village to its limits. Lastly, a thank you to each other. Class of 2022, we’ve seen it all. From heartbreaks to happiness and every accidentally sent message in between, we always had each other to count on.
“Thank you class of 2022 for making this interesting experience one to remember. Thank you to all — everyone in this room and to those not here — for never giving up on us.
“Welp, class we did it! We are finally in the year 2022 and we rocked it! Let’s blow this popsicle stand!”