Mount Pulaski High School Class of 2020 Graduation
Isabella Wade - Valedictorian speech

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[May 21, 2020]  My fellow graduates, the class of 2020. Today is the day we close one chapter of our lives and open a new one. Now I don’t know about you, but I have not always been an avid reader. In school, we all knew the teachers that would assign a book and say,” okay we will have tests after these chapters”. Maybe we put the book on the side burner, waiting till the night before to inevitably look up online summaries to prepare for the test. (I mean I'm sure none of us did this, but just go along with me for a moment)

What we did not know was even though we may have passed the test, we missed out on the real treasures found in the details. Life is like a book; it's easy to focus on the big milestones - the first day of school, graduation day, a career, family, whatever our chapters may be; or tempting to jump to the end to see if it’s worth it. But, as Mister Rogers said, “the gifts we treasure most over the years are often small and simple...we all have different gifts, so we all have different ways of saying to the world who we are.”

When we think of our high school years, often it's about the homecoming weeks (which the 2020 class won three years in a row if you didn’t know), the proms, the basketball games with everyone piled into the Ed Buckovich gymnasium sweating in the stands while students scream from the student section - but if you only see high school through those highlights, you miss out on so much. As freshmen, we prepared to secure and enjoy our lifelong memories of the high school highlights ahead of us; little did we know we were in for so much more.

Our class is resilient, we have been through thick and thin. We’ve traveled continents together; won and lost together; passed and failed tests together (thank you Anatomy); we laughed together til we cried and cried together til there were no more tears. We shared heartache and pain as we lost some of the people we love most, but became Kinder and braver because they once lived. We gained friends, we lost friends, and we had friends that became more like family. And then we were quarantined…...and together - but apart - we continued to fill the pages of our high school chapter. We made “lemonade out of lemons” - spending more time and contributing to family and staying connected with countless hours on Zoom and FaceTime calls. We celebrated and supported each other with virtual birthday parties and drive by parades; we learned to deeply appreciate that some chapters of life we may be generous “givers”, and in others, we may be “receivers”; and the “ripples” we create continue without boundary.

We can’t choose what happens to us but we can choose how we respond to it and what we do about it; our class definitely did not let coronavirus stop us from finishing out our senior year strongly, (I mean, i'm pretty sure we all got straight A’s this quarter which is a pretty great accomplishment if you ask me). As a class, with the help of our amazing parents, teachers, and administrators, we generated creative ways to squeeze every drop out of our senior year. No matter what obstacles we have faced as a class, we have always been able to overcome them together.

On behalf of our graduating class, I would like to thank those who have helped us get to where we are today. First, thank you to the Mount Pulaski School district administrators. Thank you Mr. Lamkey, for coming in your first year as Superintendent in Mount Pulaski and having such a positive impact on our school district and community, (even if you never gave us any snow days).

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Thank you to our principal, Mr. Morgan, for all of your time, patience, skills and willingness to go above and beyond for all of the students and staff and especially for your well-planned Halloween costumes every year. Thank you to our office management, Sarah Cooper and Kathrine Reed, you keep the school going like clockwork, and with a smile at all times. To the custodians, thank you for the work you do to make sure we have a clean, safe and functional school. Thank you to our AD, Mr. McVickers, for your dedication to our athletic programs and for always showing up and supporting us. Thank you to the athletic coaches who pushed us mentally and physically, who held the standard that education comes first, and who served as powerful role models for lessons outside the classroom . To everyone who captured and shared our special moments - what a gift; and to Tracy Dyer, for putting together this virtual graduation video and for everything you have done for the senior class.

A huge thank you to our teachers and staff. Over the past four years, you have gone above and beyond expectations I had for the role of teachers. You have pushed us and inspired us to go after our dreams. You have taught us so much more than academic curriculum, you taught us the importance of putting yourself out there in life, to value our relationships, that we have to run the mile in PE even if we don’t want to, and that you're never too good to learn something new . Even during a pandemic, when we could not physically attend school, you managed to make sure we were not only continuing our education (even if YOU had to learn something new), but you also checked in with us mentally and emotionally to make sure we were getting through difficult times. Our senior class will greatly miss all of you and appreciate everything you have done to prepare us for the future.

To all of the parents, thank you for not only supporting your own kids but also the rest of us throughout our lives. You put in so much time and hard work and it does not go unnoticed. To my own parents and family, I would not be where I am today without your endless support and guidance, inspirational quotes, motivational pep talks, the occasional kick in the butt when needed, but most importantly your unconditional love. You have helped make me the person I am today (for better or worse) and I hope you know how much it truly means to me.

Lastly, to the class of 2020, our story might be different than others but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I'm glad you have been a part of my story and I'm grateful to be a part of yours.

Since this graduation is virtual, you “might” have fast forwarded through this speech, but if you're still here, I hope for all of you that as you turn the pages in your book of life, you stop to enjoy the small moments. After all, “the gifts we treasure most over the years are often small and simple...we all have different gifts, so we all have different ways of saying to the world who we are.” 



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