Michael Hutchins Herald Democrats
More than 250 Denison students took their first steps in life after school when they officially graduated Saturday night. Denison High School held its annual Commencement Ceremony at Munson Stadium to celebrate the achievements of the graduating class while also wishing them well on any path.
In some ways, Saturday’s ceremony mirrored the world students experienced in their final years of high school. Storm clouds loomed over the stadium, while an almost constant cold wind blew across the venue and threatened to disrupt the event.
High winds and gusts throughout the event. Several people held their mortar caps throughout the ceremony. However, the classes continued.
“Back in August, we were all entering our senior year, bringing us one step closer to tonight,” class president Kannon Finch said in his remarks to the class. “This unexplainable relief was felt by the entire class. We’ve been through so much and our resilience has really shown. We’ve survived the ice storm, we’ve been through the pandemic. We even survived Mr. Terry’s Last biology class.”
The topic of the COVID-19 pandemic was a recurring one, but not the focus of Saturday’s festivities. While many speakers on Saturday talked about perseverance, the class has demonstrated that quality over the past two years.
Saturday’s ceremony came quickly for Salutatorian Addison Branum. She said she still remembers her first steps in high school when she visited it in eighth grade.
“I don’t think I ever realized how quickly this day could come,” she said. “I remember saying to myself, 2022 is so far away, but the day has come. Somehow we did, and on this sunny, windy Saturday night, we finally reached a place in our lives that won’t come soon A grand forgotten milestone.”
Branum talks about the formative events in her class life and how they helped them become who they are today. While they may be adults now, class members will continue to change as they take the next steps in their future education, career, and adulthood.
In his speech, valedictorian Luke Spalling encouraged his classmates to do whatever would give meaning to their lives. It may not always be what they want to do at the time, but in the planning of things, it gives them purpose.
“What we’re talking about now is the best for who we are and who we can be,” he said. “Meaning, we can say, is the foundation of personal achievement.
“Pursue what you think is meaningful, because maybe that way you don’t fail the way you would otherwise. Then after you’ve had a failure, your vision becomes clear and what you think is meaningful shifts .”
Sparlin cites entrepreneur Elon Musk and author Jordan Peterson, who encouraged the class to learn how they deal with everything they have. He quotes Peterson saying that in the game of life, you give it your all, so you might as well play your best game.
“Why not leave a legacy of compassion, dedication, humility and ambition to those of us we are left to remember and hope to emulate,” he said.
Saturday’s commencement address was delivered by Will Voelzke, Class of 1994, who became an oncologist after graduation.
Volezke said he struggled a bit when thinking about what to say to the class of 2022. However, he had a bad day last month as his friend and patient’s battle with cancer failed.
“My bad days are not like my patients’ bad days,” he said.
For inspiration, he turned to his patients and asked what lessons they would teach today’s youth.
Voelzke and his patients encourage students to build a strong team and support network around themselves. This has become even more important after the distancing and restrictions over the past two years, he said.
“We shouldn’t be six feet apart,” he said, noting an increase in substance abuse and depression.
The second lesson he hopes to teach is to encourage his students to live each day to the fullest. In doing so, he encourages his students to take time each day to silently reflect on the important things in their lives. New graduates have the benefit of time, and they should make the most of it.
“We want the house, the family we want, the car we want to buy, the watch we want to buy, but the most precious resource you have is time,” he said.
Finally, he encouraged students to embrace the journey of life. It’s not a straight road, but a road with many bends, detours and turns. Characters are born and develop in those moments of uncertainty, he said.