RACINE — 5,840 hours.
According to Southern High School Class of 2013 Valedictorian Kody Dean Wolfe, that is how many hours members of the graduating class have spent in high school classes over the last four years.
Wolfe, turning the podium to speak directly to his classmates, said, “each of us has spent about seven hundred and thirty days in high school. Going eight hours each day, that makes 5,840 hours or 350,400 minutes. All that time, just to graduate today.”
“To take that one step further, there are 39 of us standing up here, yes that’s a tiny class, but with 39 we total 13,665,600 minutes of high school.”
Wolfe asked his classmates to pause for a minute and think about high school.
“The sad part is that odds are we’ve thought more about the bad parts than the good. This may be because bad things just seem to stick out; they’re like giant flashing lights, irritating us all day long. Then they get engraved in our minds. Try making a list of memories, good vs. bad; I would be willing to bet the bad side is longer. This is just how we work. It’s in our heads,” said Wolfe.
“So, why don’t we just think about good things more often”
“That is what I ask of you all,” said Wolfe. “It’s a personal goal of mine as well. I want us to recognize and remember these little insignificant joys. They will add up just like our minutes. We will still have bad days or bad thoughts, maybe even ride the struggle bus a couple of blocks. But, try to think about the little things when you need them. Fill up those wasted minutes with good productive ideas. After all, thinking can change everything.”
Wolfe concluded, “now, we only have few minutes of high school left, remember them, they’ll be some of the best. Take these memories with you wherever you go, remember old Southern High School, you may miss it someday, and even if you don’t, it’s part of you. You’ve spent all those minutes here, and they have made you who you are now. We’ve made it, and we’re ready. I think I can speak for us all when I say, ‘It’s time, let’s graduate.’”
Salutatorian Johnny Ray Lewis VanCooney spoke about his time at Southern High School after enrolling as a freshman.
“When I came to Southern freshman year, I was kind of confused and did not know anyone in the school,” said VanCooney. “I remember on my first day Mr. Otto asked me if I was a trouble maker, I replied ‘no’. I’m sure then he had no idea I was going to work as hard as I did in school to become salutatorian.”
VanCooney noted that classmate Brandon Marcinko showed him around the school and he along with J.J. Gray took VanCooney under their wings. “I remember later that night he (J.J.) told me, ‘You’re really cool man. You’ll have a lot of friends at our school.’
“Now I realize he was right, I did make a lot of friends throughout the years. I just want to thank all of my friends for all they have done. They have made me who I am today. I sincerely appreciate it.” He went on to thank all the teachers “for listening to me and all of us when we needed your help.”
“I also want to thank my mom and dad. They are my main inspiration,” said VanCooney. “My dad always told me school is everything it decides the outcome of your life. He always gave me lectures about why and how I should do well in school. My mom was always there to support me and calm me down when I was worried about something with school.”
“Although many kids out there don’t like to go to school when they are younger, because it’s hard to wake up so early, or sitting in classrooms all day is boring, and lectures are terrible. School is very important. Some people don’t realize that until it’s too late,” said VanCooney.
“I remember in kindergarten I told my teacher school was a waste of my time. My mom still asks me all the time if I remember saying that. But when I got to high school, I realized I want to be somebody. I figured that I have to be there anyway so I might as well make the best of it. Now, I see it really paid off just to try my best and never give up.”
Following both the valedictorian and salutatorian addresses, Southern Principal Daniel Otto presented an honorary diploma to John Jacob “J.J” Gray. Accepting on behalf of Gray were his parents Vincent and Brenda Gray.
J.J. was a member of the graduating class who was killed in a car accident in August 2011.
Otto also recognized the parents and grandparents of the Class of 2013, staff and faculty of Southern Local, and the board members.
Otto recognized the Top 10/Honorarians, National Honor Society members, those receiving honors diplomas and those receiving the award of merit.
The Top 10 students in the class were (in no particular order) Tara Marie Eakins, Jennifer Anne McCoy, Jaclyn Marie Mees, Olivia Faith Poling, Stefanie Morgan Pyles, Joseph Lee Smith, Kyrie Jordanne Swann, Johnny Ray Lewis VanCooney, Paige Nicole Wehrung, and Kody Dean Wolfe.
Class President Johnny VanCooney welcomed those in attendance to start the evening’s ceremony, with vice president Jennifer McCoy giving the invocation.
Student Council President Kody Wolfe led the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by the Southern band playing Kong.
Following the changing of the tassels, the Class of 2013 lead all those in attendance in the Alma Mater.
Christa Renae Berryman then had the benediction, followed by the recessional played by the Southern band.
Graduates of the Class of 2013 receiving diplomas on Sunday evening were,
Christa Renae Berryman, Christopher Allen Chaney, Brittany Ellann Cogar, Caitlyn Jennifer Cowdery, Maggie Marin Cummins, Zachary Tyler Davis, Tara Marie Eakins, Angelica Marie Eynon, Makayla Maria Findley, David Cole Graham, Robert Ray Hendrix, Justin Wesley Hettinger,
Kristen Michelle Holbrook, Teela Diane Lemley, Brandon Michael Marcinko, Jennifer Anne McCoy, Megan Marie McGee, Jaclyn Marie Mees, Adam Lee Pape, Shelby Dawn Pickens, Olivia Faith Poling, McKayla Elizabeth Powell, Stefanie Morgan Pyles, Daniel Raymond Ramthun,
Tedra Nicole Sayre, Joseph Lee Smith, Mica Markita Maria Smith, Kyrie Jordanne Swann, Cody Edward Taylor, Johnny Ray Lewis VanCooney, Jeremiah Douglas-Neil Warden, Julie Ann Weddle, Whitney Paige Weddle, Nicolete Leigh Wells, Allicia Caroline White, Kody Dean Wolfe, and Jessica Lee Wood.