The class of 2017 graduated last night at Red Rocks Ampitheater, even through a downpour of rain crashing the ceremony. Valedictorian Alec Yagey along with honored speakers Desa Paich and Leah Deminksi gave speeches to the graduating class at the beginning of the night.
Congratulations Mountain Vista High School Class of 2017, we have done it. Today I am simply Alec, a member of our graduating class. At first I welcomed the idea of placing myself in front of such a collection of individuals that have had a large part in shaping the person I have become. But I turned to questioning, what entitles me to stand here before you today?
The short answer is nothing.
How can one student regardless of identity, even attempt to represent all?
How could I begin to understand and speak to each of your trials and tribulations, your struggles and successes?
I don’t even know who I am let alone who you are. Why does the concept exist that the individual who receives this thirteen-letter long title, a supposed pinnacle of achievement, is one of the most qualified and able?
I couldn’t tell you.
One thing that I can say with unwavering voice in confidence is that we as students are judged by numbers. And these numbers come from letters, particularly the first five, the simple solutions to high school’s essential guessing game. As Albert Einstein once said, “if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” A man, believe it or not, thought by many to be rather smart, but when was the last time you heard Einstein’s high school GPA? These so called “essential” numbers have a fantastic way of disappearing once we leave our familiar halls. Yet they are held up as everything, they are the only thing.
Think of the hours lost for an alphabet soup of CSAPs, TCAPs, PARCCs, CMASSs, SATs and PSATs, justified by the state’s supposed need to measure a three-dimensional human being with a one-dimensional yardstick, it seems a little excessive, and it’s not just that.
These “numbers” become funding, the numbers are “school rankings”, the numbers are pay cuts and pay raises. In high school we as students are bred to accept nothing less than 1600s and 36s; fostering unnecessary competition and killing all chance of collaboration. We fail to achieve great things together because the system falls utterly short of allowing us to do just that. Instead it infuses within us a desire to be good at tests, rather than good at life.
And when it’s time to embark on the carousel of the college search process, we send across the nation our numbers and essays written minutes before midnight, to be judged, picked apart and lost among thousands of others. And when the hallowed institutions of lore around the world respond with resounding no’s to the high ACTs and straight A G.P.A.s we have no choice but to accept the shrouded fact that the numbers are not everything we have been told. I’m beginning to believe these numbers have reached an expiration date, and that date seems to be today.
You are not a number.
I will say it louder for those in the back, you are not a number! The time for letting numbers determine who you are and what you are capable of is over.You should now feel free to go out there and prove it.
We all leave this high school experience with the exact same piece of paper – no indication of GPA, no special distinction. So let us all be proactive in forgetting GPAs and ACTs, many already have, and instead selectively choose to remember only the times we have shared, memories and moments that guided us like beacons in the darkness to this point. Remember faces and smiles, tears and laughter, not numbers, because today none of those numbers matter and rightfully so, because we are all Mountain Vista graduates, and we are all equal.
There is no invisible hand which selects some for success and fortune, while condemning others to failure.
For life is the greatest equalizer…
And we ourselves hold the sole responsibility for our destiny. While you cannot alter the past, you can shape and mould the future. In this pursuit though, don’t ever assume your own success is guaranteed – the world owes you nothing.
And for that matter, don’t assume your own failure, you set your own limits.
Mountain Vista Class of 2017 whether you set out to change the world, or to change the lives of a select few, from the bottom of my heart I wish you the very best.
Congratulations Class of 2017, we made it. Its cliché, but it’s true. We have made it through nail- biting football and basketball games where some of the best memories were made, we have made it through theatre and musical performances that wowed us with the talents, we have made it through endless nights with friends where some of the biggest laughs were shared, we have made it through the painfully long advisement class we went to once a semester (sorry, Mr. Fisher), and we have made it through tragedy, but we have never soared higher.
For the longest time, I had the common case of senioritis where my three classes a day were just three too many classes, so I wished them away. And now here we are, May 17, 2017, about to take our final steps as Mountain Vista High School students, and now more than ever I wish we had just one more year with each other. I wish we had one more year to dress up pretty for prom and homecoming, and one more year to raise money during Wish Week for a cause bigger than ourselves because those are the memories I will carry with me forever.
To admin, thank you on behalf of the seniors for looking out for us. We may not have liked it at times, but you have always had our best interest in mind and that is not something a lot of students can confidently say.
To the teachers, thank you for being a home outside of home, you taught us literary techniques and derivatives and the laws of supply and demand, but more than that, you taught us to choose kindness and choose respect and provided us with a space where we could grow into the best versions of ourselves. Your hard work and your dedication to us students has not gone unnoticed, we just weren’t about to show teachers we actually saw you as human beings. Still, you have truly prepared us for what is ahead in indescribable ways, and for that we will always be thankful. Because now, we have the future ahead of us.
That future is ours, the Class of 2017’s, and it’s coming faster than ever. And for it, I have two pieces of advice: the first, is “Decisions have consequences and consequences have ripples”. Decide for yourself. What you choose can have an amazing outcome, and then it will ripple—it will affect those around you on a larger scale then you could even imagine. Choose what will be best for you. I have never seen a person so happy and so in their element as when they are doing what they love. Do what you love and the rest will fall into place. You do not need to know what is next for you right this second because the truth is, the best things take time, and we are ready to achieve the unachievable, no matter how long it takes.
My second piece of advice, to choose respect. Respect has amazing benefits. Respect your professor and maybe you’ll get tips on that paper. Respect your boss and you just might get that promotion. Respect your friends and you’ll create a life-long relationship. Respect your parents, and you just might get to come home after college. But the most rewarding thing about respect is that once you respect yourself and those around you, you will feel no greater sense of accomplishment and I am confident when I say life itself will be easier.
I could not be more proud to be a part of Mountain Vista’s graduating Class of 2017, we’re going to make a difference in the world. So while we have only the rest of our lives ahead of us, don’t let time drown out the memories of high school.
Remember the teacher that made a difference in your life, remember the friend that was there for you in a hard time, remember the advice someone special gave to you, and I challenge you to be that for someone else in this world. And if you decide to take up that challenge, I promise you it will make a ripple effect and it will help more people than you could imagine, and then remember that it all started because of you. Thank you.
So, Mr. Weaver here has not always been top dog at Vista, but was actually my elementary school principal. I was only his student for one year before moving on the broader pastures known as Mountain Ridge Middle School, but when I saw him again two years later, on that first day of freshman year, he looked me straight in the eye and without hesitation and said “Leah, how have you been?” and I was so dumbfounded I nearly dropped the ice cream sandwich a link crew leader had given me a few minutes prior, which would have been a small tragedy.
However, near tragedy turned to awe-stuck admiration after that first interaction with Mr. Weaver. It left such a strong impression that set the precedent for my four years at Vista, and it was because of this warm welcome that I knew Vista was indeed where I was meant to spend my high school career.
From that moment on I was literally overwhelmed with the intensity of the eagle spirit. And no, I’m not saying that figuratively, I was nearly pummeled during my first “Do it” cheer at vista and had to hold on to the back of an unwitting senior for dear life. So, If my unsung hero is out there somewhere, I might not be standing here today if it wasn’t for you.
That aside, my brief brush with terror taught me two things:
- Do not wear a backpack during a “do it”, is is the epitome of attempting to swim against the current; uncomfortable, awkward and is entirely fruitless. Not to mention your backpack is probably 30% of your body weight considering freshman you can’t figure out how to open your locker.
- Whether they’re aware of it or not, your fellow eagles are always there to help you.
Whether it’s my peers, teachers, coaches, or the administration. I have always felt wholeheartedly supported by the entire vista community. With every rejection, acceptance, wild success, failure and crying episode in my guidance counselor’s office my support system here has never failed to be there and help me before, during and after. Without these defining moments and relationships, I have no idea what my future would have look like, but now I’m not just stepping but full out sprinting into it.
In our four years at vista we have witnessed jubilant celebration and accomplishment, but have also experienced moments of great fear and sorrow. Whether it was the loss of a coach, a threat to our safety, or fulfilling the dreams of countless wish kids, I have witnessed unparalleled and incredible levels of passion and kindness in my peers, and feel very fortunate to have been a part of our accomplishments.
I am genuinely thankful to have grown up in an environment where my peers and teachers were so much more than just educational partners, but people who you can spend an entire class period arguing about the hierarchy of the Harry Potter books with (which, by the way, the fourth book is the best) people to engage in handstand contests with, and people who never forget your name. In every way, Vista is so much more than I ever expected.
As far as Mr. Weaver’s insane affinity for names is concerned, my counterparts and I have theorized for years and built several hypotheses such as: obsessively studying binders he stores under his bed or even having an informational chip implanted in his brain. However, we have only come to one sound conclusion: much like everyone else at vista, Mr. Weaver is just good, and I can’t thank him and the rest of the Mountain Vista enough community for making these awkward, slightly pre-pubescent years golden. In a few months the class of 2017 will be freshman once again, however this time we won’t have our friends, our principal or our ice cream sandwich to help us navigate the entire world that exists outside of our little high school up on the hill, so I guess we gotta take a page from Mr. Weaver’s book and spread a little bit of the eagle spirit with us wherever we go.
(bringing an ice cream sandwich with you doesn’t hurt either)