My Advice to High School Graduates

May 19th, 2012 I moved on from the fine institution that is Oktaha Public Schools.

Graduation. Such a long awaited day.

Here’s a copy of my salutatorian’s (found in the archives of my computer among all the new essays and research and notes college has added) EXACTLY as it was delivered that night (my excitement hindered any creativity of speech).Image

“Good Evening,

On behalf of the Oktaha High School Class of 2012, I’d like to thank you all for taking the time to be here with us to celebrate perhaps our greatest achievement yet. It goes without saying that those who cannot be here with us tonight are on our hearts and in our minds, and we cherish the memories that we have with them, and walk on knowing we’ve made them proud.

I’d like to say a special thanks to my family for their support in every area of my life and for believing in me even at my lowest of lows. Somehow, we’ve made it here tonight and that alone is a miracle. I’d also like to express my gratitude for my closest friends and mentors. You’ve made life so wonderful. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the love and grace of these people. Most importantly, I’d like to thank the Lord. I am thrilled and humbled to commit my life to the cause of Christ,wherever he may lead.

C.S. Lewis made a very fitting statement for this pivotal moment in life “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”  Tonight, we leave behind high school with the promise that a future beyond our wildest dreams awaits us.

At some time or another we’ve all been told that high school is going to be the best time of our life, but that doesn’t have to be true.  As Walt Disney once said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

My fellow graduates, I encourage you to stay curious, open your own doors, and to think of high school as your greatest accomplishment YET and the best time of your life SO FAR, Because bigger and better things are always ahead.

Congratulations Class of 2012! We’ve made it. Now, let’s keep going.”

The road to graduation, senior year as a whole, had been ridiculously smooth. I had lost my dad at the end of my Junior year. Nothing could get to me. NOTHING…right? To make a long story short: my world came crashing, PLUMMETING down around me just 2 days before graduation. My mom experienced some medical mystery that doctors at the time said was a heart attack (the worst kind, at that). Doctors said there was absolutely NO WAY that she would be at my graduation. I remember I was at the church baking cake balls for an upcoming ladies’ meeting when I received the news. My brother, Aunt Tammy, and Aunt Becky all three came to break the news. After sort of falling apart in the most ungraceful of manners, my only solution was that if my mother wasn’t going, I wasn’t going.  They didn’t need my speech. I wasn’t going to graduate without a parent in the audience. I was determined to stay as far away from graduation as possible. No force in heaven or on Earth or otherwise could get me to Oktaha. By an obvious act of God the doctor released Mom to go to graduation on good behavior. She was to sit the entire time and not get too excited. (If you know my mom you have a pretty good idea of how that went.)

(Happy endings-She was fine. The “heart attack” was a fluke, and she’s my healthy, happy cute mommy!)

Reflecting on my words one year later, I see the truth in C.S. Lewis’ words. “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” There were some fantastic times in high school but what I’ve experienced in the last year has far surpassed my greatest expectations.

That being said, here is my advice to high school graduates:

1. Hug your mamas, daddies, and everyone you love. A lot. You won’t get to do this nearly enough, no matter if you stay in town or if you move far away. Hugs aren’t frequent in the workplace or on college campuses (ORU is sort of an exception, but still). Cherish these people. Don’t let something small get in the way and ruin would-have-been great memories.

2. Rest Up. Sleep does not happen as much as you’d like for it to after high school (if you’re doing anything worthwhile, that is). The time of your life is about to begin. You don’t want to miss a beat.

2.5 READ! There’s essentially no time for leisure reading in college.

3. Don’t blow your graduation money. It’s new and awesome and wonderful and (sometimes) there’s so much of it! Budget it wisely. Books are expensive. Late night Taco Bell and QT trips are frequent when you’re in college. Not to mention dorm needs and the updated wardrobe from high school to college (big differences).

4. Travel. If you have a chance to travel between your senior and freshman year, do it. It’s worth it. Travel anytime. Everyone just travel.

5. If there’s nothing you can do about it, DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT. Hakuna Matata. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Leave the high school drama in HIGH SCHOOL. She never liked you? Her loss. He never forgave you? His burden to bear.

6. Leave on good terms. Finish strong. Don’t slack off! The last day is just as important as the first. Don’t leave any room for regret. Say what you want to say! I told one classmate to “Have a nice life.” at graduation because I had no intentions of seeing them again! Don’t lie about getting together in the future if you won’t OR don’t want to. This is your fresh start. Worried about missing high school? Finish well and leave on good terms and I promise there will be no regrets to be had.

7. (CLICHE) HAVE FUN. Make this summer all about fun. You’re done with high school, and the realities of college haven’t hit you yet. Don’t sweat it until August! (stay up to date on deadlines-know the important dates, but beyond that…) It can wait! Avoid the drama. Don’t get wrapped up in the meaningless details of the lives of others. If it won’t matter next May, why bother?

Fully appreciate what you’re leaving behind. Cherish those memories.

Prepare yourself for the far, far better things ahead. Because I promise they are coming if you’re ready or not! 

Congratulations, graduates! Keep going!

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2 thoughts on “My Advice to High School Graduates

  1. A high school friend of mine commented on your FB post about this speech. I read it and want to share it on my community page if you don’t mind. Most people on there know I’m from Oklahoma and I would like to give them a flavor of that. Excellent speech – I’m sure it was well executed and so much more meaningful now, a year later than you ever could have imagined. BTW, my high school friend? Terry Perry. She was a cheerleader in Jr. High you know – Ask to see a picture sometime! 🙂

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