Good evening students, faculty, staff, and members of the community. It s been a long time coming but we finally made it. I am so thankful to have

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1 Good evening students, faculty, staff, and members of the community. It s been a long time coming but we finally made it. I am so thankful to have been given the opportunity to speak to you all today. Thank you to the educators of this school for teaching us life lessons beyond what the curriculum demanded. Thank you to Mr.Holly for being the best principal any one of us could have asked for. And thank you to the staff for all of the hard work you put into making this school great. Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge a special someone who I have admired throughout high school and especially this year. This person faced rough academic challenges and a bit of a setback this year but refused to quit. Amidst being a three-sport athlete, a straight-a student, and a role model in the community, this person still managed to make time for their friends and be there for anyone who needed her, and she did it all with a smile on her face. Marcus gave a wonderful speech, but I must admit, I was looking forward to hearing from Samantha Bickford today. She and I had identical schedules this year and I was able to witness her relentless efforts and dedication in and out of the classroom. She is a phenomenal student and an even greater friend. Sami, we may not be side by side in the ranking anymore but I m still honored to have been right up there with you throughout high school. Not to discredit Marcus or Tyler, but Sami deserves the honor just as much. You inspired me everyday to work harder no matter what gets thrown my way and I thank you from the bottom of my

2 heart for the role you played in my life. I believe she s earned a round of applause. This crazy journey seemed like it would last forever while we were in it. But now that it s over we can see how quickly it all flew by. If we are all blessed to live until we are 90 years old, our years in grades K-12 would have only made up about 14% of our lives. High school would make up a mere 4%. However, we all spent that 4% of our lives differently. Some of us went to BOCES to get a head start on a career and others submerged themselves in AP classes and GCC courses. Some of us chose to play sports and be a part of a team, while others decided to get involved more in the community and help others. Either way we all experienced that 4% of our lives together, here at Cal-Mum. Audience, sitting before you now is the most courageous, determined, and kind-hearted group of people I have ever met. Each and every one of these students has a story, told or untold, of how they got to be sitting in those seats. Though we may be young, we ve lived a lot of life in that short amount of time. Looking out at all of your faces you would never be able to guess the things that some of you have been through. I hate to bring up the sadness of the past, but bear with me, it will all make sense in the end. It s hard to believe that this group of 17 and 18 year olds has endured all that they have. The stories that I know of are truly inspiring.

3 Take a look at Marcus Middleton. You d never guess that he was butt of almost every joke throughout high school. I m almost sad to admit that whenever Marcus did anything, he had 56 sets of eyes staring and giving their opinions on his decisions. Granted, his decisions were usually wrong. But we could have given him some more breathing room. Regardless of the pressure he was always under, he still sits before you today as the salutatorian of the class. He pushed through and did it with a smile. Next, take a peek at Alyssa Phillips. Despite the smile that s always on her face, she has supported her mom through rounds of chemotherapy as her mother suffered through breast cancer not once, but twice. I sat with Alyssa every day at lunch and she never once complained. She always had faith in God s plan for her family. Her positivity was contagious and I can t thank you enough for the light you brought with you to lunch every day. Your endurance through a terribly stressful and scary time is something I aspire to posses one day. I don t know how you did it Lyss. Five months ago Nick Harmon lost his beloved grandfather, Robert Pullyblank, better known as Bear. I never knew Mr. Pullyblank, but the poise that Nick maintained throughout the events of his grandfather s passing was amazing. We all knew how much Nick would miss his grandfather, and listening to Nick talk about him was a touching experience. The story you wrote, A Goodbye to a Bear was absolutely beautiful. And you carry his legacy with grace every single day. I may not have known him,

4 but through you I feel that I have had a taste of the thundering voice and encouraging words of the late, great Mr. Pullyblank. Rachael Dollard lost both of her grandparents in her time here in high school. This girl who always seemed to be laughing, for the first time had a frown on her face. It was easy to see how close she was to both her grandmother and grandfather, but she didn t let her grief stop her from achieving great things. An active volunteer in the community, and definitely an above average soccer player, Rachael put that smile back on her face and made her grandparents proud. I m sure your angels are smiling just like you, watching you now. Shannon Ward has a love for her mother that is evident in everything she does. She continues to support and encourage her mother, a veteran, through treatments for multiple myeloma. First, thank you Marcie Ward for your service. Second, thank you Shannon for setting a great example, for your family and fellow students, of what it means to be there for someone through thick and thin. We all know Joey Comstock s comeback story. Just two summers ago he was terribly ill and deteriorating fast in the hospital. Suffering through E. Coli which led to kidney failure but he never let that slow him down. Today he sits before with kidneys functioning at 100%. He is an outstanding athlete and a die hard runner. Looking at him now, it s hard to believe that I was

5 waiting for Facebook updates on his condition not too long ago. He threw us all for a loop, but wow did he bounce back better than ever. And we can t forget his best friend, Seth Toland. I know he hates to be called out, but he deserves all the accolades in the world. I don t know anyone who can endure what you have endured and still sitting here today, a high school graduate. After losing both your dad, who was your best friend, and your mom, who you loved so much, in the span of less than 4 years, you still somehow manage to go out of your way to help and encourage others. Ask anyone sitting around you how great you are, and they will all agree. You are the definition of strength, love, and determination. Looking out at the proud faces of your family members makes me sure that your parents are so proud of everything you have accomplished. These are just a few of the many inspiring people sitting here today. There are so many more. I d be here all day if I named them all. Elizabeth Marvin never let her disability disable her, Michael Godlove chooses to be himself every day no matter what the world or the media throws at him. You re both amazing, don t let anyone tell you differently. For any others I did not mention, your stories are not forgotten. In this little 4% of our lives we have overcome tremendous feats and withstood the toughest battles. Even if you haven t experienced a hard situation this year, you were always there to offer support to your fellow classmates. Every text, hug, and word of encouragement went a very long

6 way. People always say that life is only uphill from here, but we can leave today knowing that we have climbed bigger hills and moved larger mountains. Can anything really stop us? It took THIS group, each and every one of us, to push through this exhausting 4% of our lives to be able to graduate with smiles on our faces today. We are barely scraping the surface of adulthood and we have not finished nearly half of the battle but I m not worried about us all going out into the world. We don t need to look elsewhere for heroes or for inspiration, first look up then just look next to you. Never forget what you have achieved here, academically and emotionally. Just like the yearbook said, we must remember our roots. Except for the whole someone dating their 2nd cousin thing. You can forget about that. Before I take my seat I just want to thank my family for getting me here. Dad, I wanted nothing more than for you to be in the stands screaming, that s my baby as I give this speech. You almost made it, but I m glad you re not in pain anymore. I know you can t be here physically but I hope you re watching and I hope I made you proud. I love you. Grandpa, I can t thank you enough for stepping in since day one and being a father to me in every sense of the word. From picking me up from school and driving me to double sessions of pre-season to coming to every event you can and giving the best advice. You re a God-fearing man who

7 taught me to be a God-fearing young lady. It s because of you that I know my faith can carry me through anything. Mama, you already know you re my everything. I know you told me not to mention you but there s no way I can t. Just know that I m standing here because every sacrifice you have made for Lauren and me. I m blessed to have you as my mom. Now, to the graduating class of 2017, you ve got this. This audience could be staring at a group of quitters, but we are quite the opposite. We are already dripping with success. Leave this little town and be as humble as ever, but always be aware of your value. Joey Comstock once said about high school, it goes by fast, yeah, it just goes by fast. Despite the speed, always remember how this little 4% of our lives together has made us who we are. We are UNSTOPPABLE. Now go out and be the great people I know you already are. Thank you.

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