Dozens of high school seniors found a surprise under their seats during Out-of-Door Academy’s graduation ceremony Saturday afternoon, hosted at the Petrik Thunderdome.
In her valedictorian speech, Adelaide Mahler said there were about 80 graduates, five minutes to speak, and years of memories to recap.
“I ask each of my fellow seniors of the great Class of 2019 to reach under their chairs, where they will find an envelope,” she said. “Enclosed is exactly what I would have said to you if I had boundless time.”
She wrote a personal note to each graduate, and with the few minutes she had on stage, Mahler emphasized the importance of individual skill sets and personalities.
But she also stressed the value of teamwork. They can be productive members of a community while also staying true to themselves, Mahler continued.
“Though the real world is scrappy and full of manipulation, it’s collaboration — not competition — that will bring you success,” she said.
The class speaker, Katherine Gaukhman, delivered an updated version of her past speech, tweaking the message to include new-found experiences and wisdom.
“I gave this speech at our eighth-grade graduation as well,” Gaukhman said. “I talked about chasing our dreams, and how unbelievable our potential is and how incredibly excited I was to grow up and change the world as we know it.
“Now, having gone through high school, I’m going to be just a little more realistic.”
Leaving a positive mark on the world is vital, Gaukhman said, but the obstacles became more obvious and overwhelming as she entered early adulthood.
She recounted the challenges of growing up in the Information Age. Students are faced with a 24-hour news cycle, an addiction to social media and devices that provide an endless distraction.
They also faced the same historical struggles as past students, thinking about college just after entering high school, missing family dinners to finish homework and facing constant peer pressure.
Gaukhman felt childhood slipping away — often too fast for comfort.
“We were holding signs about women’s rights and immigration, rather than throwing a football around like kids our age once did,” she said.
She encouraged the Class of 2019 to embrace their youthfulness, to jump on new opportunities and to remember what they learned at Out-of-Door Academy.
America’s youth is cognizant of the world’s problems, and though a fix won’t come easy, they get involved regardless.
“Sooner than we think, it’s going to take a lot of work just to get dressed in the morning,” Gaukhman said. “When that day comes, we should be able to confidently say that we made the best use of our time in this world.”