The following is the preliminary script for the address given to the graduates of the Class of 2015 at their commencement exercises May 29, 2015 at North Fayette Valley High School.
For the past few months I have tried to articulate in my mind what I wanted to say at graduation about the seniors in the Class of 2015 at North Fayette Valley High School. Generally it has been easy for my to capsulize a class in a few words, but this year’s group has proven very difficult to sum up. I have kept searching for that to no avail. I remarked a year ago about the incredible academic achievement of the Class of 2014 with scores and accomplishments that were mind blowing. In 2013, I spoke about the incredible pockets of talent and the amazing performances and accomplishments members of the class had over the course of their high school career. For the Class of 2012 I discussed the potential and my personal curiosity as to where they were all going to end up. But what about this bunch that sits before me?
Here is what I have come up with: You are like the middle child. Now I am going to describe what I mean from a few different perspectives. You see last year in the first year of NFV, the seniors were the ones that got all of the attention. First to do this, first to do that, and on and on and on. They were the ones that had to leave behind their comfort zones in their last year of high school. They got to make decisions and set the foundation for what was to come. And the 9th and 10th graders – the younger siblings – we weren’t too worried about them because after a couple of years they would be just fine. Plus, just like moms and dads do, we gave them extra attention to make sure they found their way. And yes, we worried more about them than we did about you. Would they find their way around the building? Would they make friends? How would they handle a school so big? What about driving so far so early in the morning?
And then there were you, the juniors. Did anyone even notice you were here? Were you here? There’s three or four of you that we needed to check on this year to be sure you were who you claimed to be! A lot of folks couldn’t tell the difference between a D.J. and a J.D.! In some respects it was kind of like your class was invisible. Neglected. The school year ended, the first class of North Fayette Valley graduated and everyone patted themselves on their back about how well Year 1 had gone. People were feeling pretty good.
And then we started this past school year, and with the older sibling gone and out of the house, the middle child was now ready to come out of his/her shell. And this is what we found – this group of young men and women – these seniors – had become a strong, unified class of students that supported each other and had worked together to make each other better. They had developed new friendships and found a lot of common interests. Most of them have not been caught up getting a lot of individual attention or having the spotlight on them. They have explored opportunities and have performed at a very high level. There are some incredible minds in this class. Some great thinkers. A lot of this became evident through their Capstone experience. They raised the bar with the quality of research and presentations they gave. Many of them attacked the project, like they attack their classes, with the goal of learning.
Like the middle child there is a sense of empathy and a desire to help others. A few were integral in putting together a program to draw awareness to how many students in our school struggle with mental health issues. Others have provided much needed and appreciated service to others, such as playing the piano at a nursing home. Parents are biased, but when I say that there are some really great kids in this class, you can take that coming from someone that wouldn’t say it if he didn’t mean it! There are some truly nice, caring people that sit before me today, and we all have benefitted from having them build the foundation for our school.
Middle children do succeed, and a research study from the United Kingdom presents evidence that they out do their older and younger siblings. Over half of the Presidents of our country were a middle-child. Bill Gates, Peyton Manning, J-Lo, Donald Trump, Abraham Lincoln, David Letterman, Warren Buffett – all middle kids. There were not great expectations place on this class – typical of the middle child – and perhaps because of this, they blossomed as their own intuition dictated. They have done their own thing, and it has worked out very well. We have over around 50 musicians in this class that have performed at the highest level in the state. We have athletes that have won at the highest level in the state. We have students that have represented our school extremely well in a number of different ways, making the staff and the community very proud.
The Class of 2015 is the one that has truly defined North Fayette Valley. They have been instrumental in terms of setting the expectations for future classes. They have to a large extent defined what it means to be a TigerHawk. In this year’s class you can truly see how some of the old traditions have merged and new ones are starting. You saw a number of photos in the video earlier and rarely did you see one from the past year where students from both districts weren’t in the frame. Some of these young men and women are going to make a difference in the lives of others in a big way. There are people in this class with a social conscience who recognize that they have a role in the betterment of our lives. To them I wish great success and hope that they will not be deterred by limits place upon them by others. Good luck to all of you! You have made us proud to be from NFV!