“Class of 2018, we have lost a lot,” salutatorian Madeline Baker said in her speech Sunday during the commencement ceremony at the high school. “We have a won a lot. No one could have predicted these wins or losses. But the journey is what make us who we are today.”
Baker said the hardest loss for the class wasn’t sports related, but that of a student who should have been sitting beside them Sunday — Dylan Patton, who died June 8 in an automobile accident in Richland County. An empty seat was set up at the graduation in Patton’s memory. The seat had his cap and gown draped over the chair, with his photo laid on top.
“We miss Dylan every single day — from his smile to his presence, and from the way he was unforgivably himself,” Baker said. “He was taken from us too early and our entire senior year was dedicated to him.”
She said there was plenty for the class to celebrate, including when the golf team advanced to the district championship and the baseball team won its district championship for the first time in 34 years. The baseball team then won its regional semifinal before losing in the regional final Friday, finishing one game shy of the state final four.
Baker said it was a time to reflect on these wins and losses, to celebrate them, but also to realize it was time to have new accomplishments outside of high school.
“What matter from now on is the work we put into our lives — not what we accomplished in high school,” she said. “Never be satisfied with your achievements. Be prepared to become overachievers.”
She told her classmates regardless of where life leads or what they do with that life, the graduates should do it with passion.
“Whatever you choose to be, be the best at it,” she said. “We all have the power, choice and opportunity to be amazing. Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”
The class’s valedictorian, Emily Kanney, told classmates not to limit themselves when considering those pursuits.
“Why don’t we think we can make a difference in the future?” she said. “Why do we think that we need to be smarter, older or just plain better than we are to make a change? Why do we think we aren’t enough? We don’t have to do something massive to leave our mark on the future.”
Kanney said it could be an “insignificant” act that means the world to someone.
“Make a difference doing common things uncommonly well,” she said. “If you aim to be the best at whatever you’re doing, you’ll end up making a difference, no matter how mundane your job seems to be.”
Kanney said they learned how to do those common things uncommonly well from their teachers, who taught by example every day.
Both Baker and Kanney encouraged their fellow alumni not to limit themselves as they consider the future, and to work past the losses they’ll face in life until they achieve the wins they’re striving for — no matter how big or small.
“Nobody can prevent you from choosing to be exceptional, and I hope we will all make that choice in our future endeavors,” Kanney said.
Red roses and Green Day’s song “The Time of My Life” were chosen to represent the class.
The Big Red’s top five students were valedictorian Emily Kanney, salutatorian Madeline Baker, Haley Felly (third), Sarah Simmons (fourth) and Jarrett Miller (fifth).
The 2018 class was represented by class president was Douglas Reer, vice president Sarah Gillum, secretary Chloe Mack and treasurer Madison Lasch.