The following speech was delivered at the June 7 Prince Charles Secondary School graduation ceremony held at the Creston and District Community Complex.
Lena Makortoff: Good evening ladies and gentlemen, honoured guests, members of the school board, and of course, our fellow grads. Welcome to our graduation ceremony. My name is Lena Makortoff —
Stephanie Bohn: — and my name is Stephanie Bohn.
Both: It is our honour to be the valedictorians of 2013.
SB: We all thought this day would never come. Many of us have been counting down the days, hours and minutes left until we make our debut into the world as adults, but no one could have predicted that the years would have come and gone so quickly. Tonight, as this chapter of our lives concludes, I feel a sense of bittersweet excitement because it means leaving behind friends who have inspired us, teachers who have been our mentors, parents and many other loved ones who have shaped our lives and have forever left their imprints on our hearts. It is your guidance that has built the foundation of who we are today.
Graduation is a time to reflect on the past, the present and the future. Remember the first day of elementary school — we all had fresh minds and were full of enthusiasm. We were ready to begin our lives as “big kids” — or what we thought were big kids. Life was simple back then. Our biggest concerns consisted of who could run faster, or what to bring to show and tell. At the time, a broken crayon felt like the end of the world. Yet, as time progressed, a lot has changed. Instead of worrying about broken crayons, we worried about broken hearts. Passing our classes and making decisions about our future has become our biggest concern. We used to be so confident about our future, because it was so far away. Our future, however, is now and as we prepare ourselves to step into the next chapter of our lives we are worried that we haven’t made the right choices. We need to realize that it’s OK to be unsure about our own future because undoubtedly, we will change our minds, and change them again because nothing is permanent.
LM: When we were little, people always asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. We enthusiastically responded with various professions, such as doctors, astronauts, rock stars, or firemen — our innermost dreams. Now that we are here and the question is more imminent, it’s scary if we still don’t really know — but now isn’t the time to worry about that. This is the time in our lives to make mistakes, and make as many as we can. Beverly Sills once said, “There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” Making mistakes is inevitable, and it is vital we make them in life. It is through our errors that we learn the most about ourselves. Over the course of the next few years, we are free to make our own choices, whether right or wrong, and we will adapt and grow from each experience. If we make a wrong turn and get lost somewhere along the way, we must be resilient and discover new beauty in all of the destinations we reach.
SB: Growing up, I was always told to protect my heart. However, the harder I tried, the more difficult I realized the task was. After all, weren’t hearts made to be broken? I came across what I believed was my first heartbreak in Grade 1. Justin Timberlake, my favourite member of the boy band ’N Sync, started dating Britney Spears. Back then, I believed that I would never have to deal with anything worse. Unfortunately, I was wrong. When I was 10, my dad lost his battle to cancer. While this was far from a blessing for our family, we became stronger from dealing with the loss. I was inspired to work harder in school. Every test I passed was a step closer to graduation, a step closer to living my own life and a step closer to the better life that my dad wanted for me. I know that I am not the only one that has faced hardships within our class. Together, we’ve been through an endless amount of accidents, broken bones and the losses of loved ones. We’ve pushed limits and found a place to stand, for the time being.
Today, however, isn’t a day to dwell on our past sorrows. It’s a day to celebrate what we have overcome. I ask you, fellow PCSS grads of 2013, to embrace your past and take it forward with you as a reminder that you have already overcome what once seemed impossible. I ask you to remember that the experiences we have encountered, despite how difficult they may have been, for they have shaped us into who we are today. The walls that we choose to climb in the future will be the obstacles that form us into the some of the strongest people this world will see.
LM: Always remember the importance of chasing the passions and dreams you possess, that you know in your heart will make a difference in the world. Life is full of roadblocks and obstacles, and the choices you make when you encounter these obstacles will define your future. They are not there to discourage you or prevent you from achieving your goals, but there only to teach you valuable life lessons that will lead to personal growth.
When the sweet pea meets a wall, does it stop growing? No. It does what is believed to be impossible. It defies the laws of gravity and climbs the wall, creating something beautiful as it flourishes. I ask you, PCSS grads of 2013, to follow the sweat pea’s example and climb every wall you come in contact with. Commit to your dreams, pursue them and always persevere — strive to create something beautiful out of your lives. Undeniably, there will be times in your life where things will fall into place and you will climb the wall, flawlessly and effortlessly. Despite this, do not fear the times when you find yourself struggling to make it over. Do not be afraid to take a moment to stop and reflect on your life when the challenges seem insurmountable. There is always a way. Whichever way we approach the walls that are in our future, we will deal with the rain until the sun shines again. We will blossom and thrive.
The next chapter of our lives has not yet been written, and we have the power to create a masterpiece. We have the ability to achieve heights we never thought we could reach, to take advantage of opportunities life hands us, and to seize each and every moment we are given. Today, we ask of you to take advantage of your abilities and use them to influence this world in a positive manner. Live the life you love and, most importantly, enjoy the life that you are living. On that note, we would like to leave you with a quotation: “What is success? To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate the beauty in others; to leave the world a bit better — whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived; this is to have succeeded.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Both: Our wish for you, grads of 2013, is that when you look back on your lives, you feel like you have been successful.