ROCKSPRINGS — “Keep pedaling.”
Co-Valedictorian of the Meigs High School Class of 2017 Elena Marie Musser told her fellow graduates of a recent mountain biking trip in Utah, the adversities she faced on the difficult trails, and the piece of advice to “keep pedaling.”
Musser was one of four valedictorians, along with a salutatorian to address the class during Friday’s graduation.
“So I got on my bike and looked down the steepest path I had seen yet. After a moment of hesitation and the feeling of my near certain death, I kicked off and plummeted down the hill,” said Musser. “The wind was blowing through my hair, and I was completely free. I was having the time of my life.”
Life, like the ride, will not always be easy, but is worth it, explained Musser.
“Life does not always give us easy rides. Many unexpected events will come our way. You will feel pathetic, humiliated, frustrated and embarrassed on numerous occasions. But more importantly you will also feel happy and free.
“Don’t be afraid of adventure. Welcome it with open arms and embrace the unknown….Allow yourself to be a beginner. No one starts off being excellent,” said Musser.
“Open your hearts and minds to the change and do everything in your power to keep moving forward. Keep pedaling,” concluded Musser.
For Co-Valedictorian Gracie Kathryn Hoffman, it was an opportunity to stand in the spot her father would have 35 years ago as the valedictorian of the Class of 1982.
“It is only fitting that I would start mine (my speech) with some wise words of wisdom from the man that I owe so much to….However, I have no light to shed seeing as my father — being a little on the shy side — declined his opportunity to speak,” said Hoffman, who admitted she inherited her chatty personality from her mother. “She is the epitome of chatty Kathie.”
While the past year, Hoffman said, has been filled with many lasts, there is much more to come in life.
“There is still so much for us to seize ahead,” said Hoffman. “I can only encourage you to be relentless in the pursuit of what makes you happy, but more importantly — I encourage you to count your blessings.”
Blessings can come in many forms, from the joy of friends and family, to the “sweet taste of victory that is in a red Starburst.” It can also be in struggles and failures.
“It’s easy to be grateful when all of our puzzle pieces seem to be falling together perfectly. But what I have found to be important — and of course the most difficult — is to be grateful for our failures.
“Failure is inevitable in a life well lived because failure means that we are trying….You see, the blessing is not in the failure itself, but rather the things that result from it, because success come from improvement and improvement comes from failure,” said Hoffman.
Even more important, is to be a blessing, said Hoffman.
“Choose to give back to the world. Not because it’s convenient, and not because people are watching, but because a servant’s heart is the catalyst for change in this world,” said Hoffman. “Immerse yourself in helping others, and I promise, you will find wealth worth far more than gold.”
Co-Valedictorian Raeline Noelle Reeves spoke of the importance of remembering those who have been with you for the first 18 years, leading up to graduation as you move toward the next phase of your life.
“For as long as I can remember, people have told me that my life would actually begin tonight after we turn our tassels,” said Reeves. “The real truth is that our lives began a long time ago.”
From learning to talk and read to first school dances, first friends and many other firsts, many pivotal moments have taken place prior to graduation, Reeves said.
And while some things will change, not everything has too.
“Growth is important and necessary, but don’t outgrow who you are right not and the people with whom you’ve spent the true beginning of your life,” said Reeves.
As the graduates began their freshman year, they were asked to write a letter to themselves on graduation day. They were given those letters back earlier this week.
“In the words of my freshman self, ‘Remember your family, your friends, and everything about your life because, in the end, all of that has shaped you into the person you are now,’” said Reeves.
While some will feel the need to leave Meigs County and not come back, Reeves said that there is no need to be ashamed of where you come from.
“There’s no need to be ashamed of where you come from because, like it or not, you’ve been shaped by the experiences you’ve had here and that’s not a bad thing….Don’t feel like you have to leave behind the family and friends who’ve supported you the last 18 years,” said Reeves.
For Co-Valedictorian Jordan Roush it was the example of Dr. Seuss where she drew inspiration for her speech.
As I stand before you co-number one,
With three friends that they have become
I realize that we are all number none.
For it isn’t the number of speeches you give
But the quality of life that you live.
Graduating from Meigs High School is not an easy task,
So let’s give it up for all of the class.
Let’s not forget Mr. (Travis) Abbott is back
He left for a year until he realized Meigs is where it’s at.
The staff gave us wisdom and knowledge to spare,
To face off a future that gives us a scare.
No matter what career you choose,
Remember you’re a Marauder, therefore; there is nothing to lose.
In this room will come soldiers, doctors, police,
Lawyers, teachers, and who knows maybe a priest.
As we travel new pathways that cause butterflies in our guts,
Remember “you will always miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.”
The speech by Roush brought a standing ovation from her classmates and many others in attendance.
Salutatorian Dillon Mahr gave a challenge to each of his classmates, as well the parents of the graduates.
“My challenge for you is to not forget where you have come from and the memories we have made,” said Mahr.
“We have been through some good times…We have also had our challenges. But we have overcome, and I am so proud of the class we have become,” said Mahr.
Mahr continued, “We are leaders, critical thinkers, and dreamers and I know that everyone sitting in these chairs will succeed, and success does not just mean that amount of money you make, it’s the type of person you become.”
As for the challenge to his classmates, part of that actually took place before the graduates entered the gymnasium for the final time as MHS students.
Each of the graduates was give a note card to write down their favorite high school memory while waiting in the cafeteria.
“I know you know where your best friend is sitting. I want you to look at that person, read that card and just smile a little bit,” said Mahr. “When we go out into the lobby for the last time I challenge you to give that card to that person, shake their hand, give them a hug, and tell them how mush you love them.”
Mahr quoted Dr. Seuss, saying, “sometimes you never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”
As for the parents, Mahr challenged them to find a high school classmate in the room and go talk to them.
“As Mr. Oliphant always said, it’s the people in life that matter the most,” concluded Mahr.
Each of the speakers thanked their family, teachers, staff, friends and all the others who have been part of their path to graduation and life moving forward.
Graduates in the Meigs High School Class of 2017 are, James Layne Acree, Grant Wayne Adams, Brady Joseph Andrew, Gerald Alton Andrus III, Tyler Andrew Bachtel, Leia Nickole Barnette, Briana Joe Barrett, Alexander Kyle Barton, Cody Michael Bartrum, Ashton Virginia Nicole Bauer, Joseph Tyler Billingsley, Kyla Rose Boyd, Sky Nicole Brown, Jake Everett Brunton, Garrett Warren Buckley, Paige Nicole Buckley, Cory Jean Caruthers, Breanna Dawn Colburn, Skyla Renee Coleman, Briana Joleen Collins, Katie Marjorie Collins, Adam Brian Cotterill, Sarah Noel Curl,
Alexander Thomas Pelfrey Davis, Dannett Faith Davis, Kylie Marie Dillon, Jessie Arianna Donohue, Sarah Renee Dowell, Sylvia Marie Dowell, Jade Shyann Dudding, Kenda Maria Dunkle, Madison Brooke Dyer, Abby Kathleen Eads, Ryan James Eblin, Earl Russell Kenry Fields, Rainey Lynn Fitchpatrick, Nicole Lynn Folmer, Alishia Cheyenne Foster, Lilli-Ann Josephine Frechette, Amber Nicole Fryar, William Raine Gentile, Miya Shyanne Gilmore, Divinity Jane Goheen, Emily Michelle Graham, Jacob Campbell Green, Larissa Dawn Haggy, Parker Matthew Haggy, Bryanna Kay Hall, ALlison Rachel Hatfield, Emily Dawn Henry, Alexander Zavien Rowan Zen-Eagle Henson, Fredrick Stephen Hill, Lillian Isabella Lace Hill, Gracie Kathryn Hoffman, Trae Alexander Hood, Nathanael Wayne Hoover, Macy LeeAnn Hopkins, Keaton Curtis Huffman, Stephen Ray Hysell III,
Charles Verlin Jacks Jr., Lindsey Ann Jenkins, Courtney Gertrude Jones, Tiffany Jo Kelley, Hannah Marquise Kennedy, Jared Michael Kennedy, Alexis Marie King, Kylie Nickol King, Megan Elizabeth King, Brian Keith Lambert Jr., Brady Lee Lane, Morgan Lee Lodwick, Dillon Andrew Mahr, Mersadies Marie Markins, Keira Laraine McCourt, Shautaye Lashaye Tyra McCoy, Bradley Wayne McGrath, Hannah Jean McKinley, Stacy Marie Michael, Makya Allie Milhoan, Alexis Renee Moon, Angela Danielle Morris, James Edwards Morrison Jr., Elena Marie Musser, Luke Arthur Musser, Anthony Travis Neal, Karlee Ann Norton, Brendan Chase Nuscis, Dillyn Paige Ohlinger, Devyn Ann Oliver, James Hunter Parsons, Brandon Scott Peterson, Jared Bodadias Priddy, Alliyah Danielle Pullins,
Tehya Hunter Ramage, Raeline Noelle Reeves, Faith Marie Reitmire, Mariah Alysse Reynolds, Tasia Renne Richmond, Kendra Diane Robie, Jana Faye Robinette, Brock Denzil Roush, Jake Clayton Roush, Jordan Nicole Roush, Keynath Xavier Rowe, Mason Tyler Runyon, Hannah Elizabeth Russell, Madison Morgan Russell, Tyler Lee Rutter, Donald Adam Phillip Samples, Joshua David Schwab, Jordan Timothy Shanks, Tyler James Shull, Cameron Alexander Smith, Nathanial Tyler Dalton Smith, Savannah Raychal Leigh Smith, Austin Luke Snodgrass, Dena Louise Stanley, Jamie Renee Starcher, Hunter Nathaniel Stewart, K.J. Lee Tracy,
Crystal Marie Unbankes, Nathan James Vanaman, Kevin Ray VanMeter, Byron Forrest Walcutt, Abbygale Jane Watson, Dylan Trey Weaver, Daniel Patrick Welch, Kaylee Anna-Brooke Werry, Chase Bradley Whitlatch, Michael Adam Will, Mary Elizabeth Dianne Willard, Tyler Jacob Williams, Madalyn Elizabeth Wood, Maddison Mikaela Woodyard, Hanna Nicole Young, Weston Gage Zirkle.