PERRY — The Perry High School Class of 2020 has made it through its share of rough patches the last few months, its valedictorian said Friday night.
“Now we are here at graduation, about to take our next big step in life. For those of you going to college I know you will do great. For those of you who are going into the military, I believe that you will make our country proud. And for those entering the workforce, keep doing what you love,” said Elizabeth Yang. “This is the beginning for us, the Class of 2020 ... I know that all of us will accomplish great things and I hope to see you all again whether it be at a class reunion or just passing by at a store.
“I was looking at speeches that were written by others, and I came across this one quote that I couldn’t just leave ‘Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.’ This is the wonderful quote left by Ralph Waldo Emerson,” she said. “We are the Class of 2020. We are the next generation. And we can make a difference for those to follow. Let’s see what the next four years will bring us, and remember that ‘failure is the road to success.’”
Yang said she wanted to thank everyone who helped her get where she is today.
“Thank you to my friends who have made my days in (and out of) school fun, for bringing me along on many memorable adventures. Thank you to them and also their parents for giving me rides to places,” she said. “I want to thank all of my teachers-from K-12 for all their time and dedication, for giving me memorable moments in class, for dealing with our class’s silence, and just being available. Lastly, I want to give a huge thanks to my parents for supporting all of my decisions, for being here today, and giving me this life.”
Bailey Fisher admitted she wasn’t a big fan of giving speeches. Still, she said she was honored to stand up before the class as salutatorian.
“First of all, I would like to thank all of our teachers and school administrators who dedicated so much time and energy into each of our educations and lives. I would like to thank the Stefanons (of the Silver Lake Twin Drive-In) for allowing us to have our graduation here and everyone else who made tonight possible. I would also like to thank my family for always supporting me, coming to all of my games, and for believing in me even when I didn’t. A special thank you to my dad for cleaning the snow off my car every morning because I definitely would’ve gotten a lot of tardies this winter if he hadn’t. And finally I would like to thank my friends for reminding me when homework was due, being my personal math tutors, and for all the great memories we have made together during the past 12-plus years of our lives.”
“As all of you already know these past few months have been full of uncertainties, cancellations, and disappointments for everyone here, but in particular for the Class of 2020. We had been working hard for so many years and the last semester of senior year was the light at the end of the tunnel. It was when all of our hard work would finally be recognized and we would just be able to enjoy our final moments together,” she said. “It’s hard to ignore all that our class was not able to experience, all the memories that classes before us and after us will get to have, but not ours. However, I think it’s so important that we don’t dwell on these disappointments for too long because it may give us a sour attitude towards life and it’s hard to be happy when all you can only think about are the negatives. Some positives I kept reminding myself of during the past few months were that I got to spend so much more time with my family before I left for college. I was also reminded how thankful I am to have my own room to get away from them at times. Another positive I found was that we got to spend most of our time doing things we enjoy, instead of sitting in school all day.
High School Principal Becky Belkota said the last several months have been unprecedented and presented challenges Perry never experienced.
“It might have been easy to focus on the negative, but we challenged our seniors to take this time and use it as an opportunity to become better, not bitter. During this time you practiced resilience and perseverance. You learned how to manage your time. Many of you found a job during this time or worked more hours than you normally would have along with managing your school work and family commitments,” she said. “The skills that you have practiced and gained over the past few months will benefit you as you move into the next stage of your life. You learned it’s not easy, and certainly not fair, but you also learned that you can do it,” she said.
Superintendent Daryl McLaughlin encouraged each graduate to be a person of action.
“This world will not wait for you to serve. Find an appropriate outlet, about which you are passionate, and get started. Make a phone call, attend a meeting, or participate in a training. Consistently ask yourself the question: ‘How can I do more?’” he said. “Model appropriate communication and action. Our words and deeds have outcomes, both positive and negative. I often think of the words of Benjamin Franklin with respect to my own conduct: ‘The best thing to give your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to a friend, your heart; to your child, a good example; to a father, deference; to your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you; to yourself, respect; to all men, charity.’ Let your example be one of inspiration to all.”
McLaughlin reminded the class that service can find its way back home.
“We never know when we may be in need of assistance or support. Our plans can dramatically change when life happens. We all have our own stories of how life has thrown us curveballs. Fill a need because we never know when we will be in need,” he said.
Class President Thaddeus Grierson said he didn’t know what he could say that hadn’t already been said.
“However, I would like to leave you with this. This is not an end and its not a moment to lament over, at least for very long because This is the start to your life. From here you can do whatever you decide to put your mind and soul into,” he said. “You will not have to learn facts you think are menial, that you’ll never need, nor do things you feel have no purpose to your life’s goal. However, you are going to be tested in whatever you choose to do, you are going to have to push yourself to do things you may not enjoy and make no mistake it will be a challenge.
“But do not back down from this because we were made for things like this. We were conceived and born in the wake of 9/11 and we have graduated in a pandemic that shut down the entire world. We have made it through so much, and it’s important we don’t forget that,” he said. “I also ask you to try to at least remember one good thing from your experiences here, and I know, not everyone likes school, but I know for a fact we all have a favorite memory. Whether it’s when one of us hopped out the first floor bathroom window and tried to escape, or it’s just a day you really enjoyed with your friends, remember it and cherish it.”