Keeping time is part of the job for music teachers, especially at graduations like that of the Elkin High School seniors of 2018, who received their diplomas on Friday.
“The students are my greatest source of joy. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of their lives for a time,” said vocal music director Tonya Smith, who has a unique relationship with each graduating class.
“Because I have many of the same students for several years, watching my seniors graduate is bittersweet,” said Smith.
“I grieve a little. I have invested in these people. I have spent hours with them daily for sometimes five years. It’s like a parent sending their child off into the world every single year. They become like family, and when they leave, I experience something equal to empty nest.”
Most of those present acknowledged the apprehension of the change after so much time spent together.
Observing that most of the 93 graduates had been in the same classes since kindergarten, commencement speaker and graduate Ryan Macy said, “Throughout these 13 years we have made friendships and created memories that will last a lifetime. From Fun Fridays in elementary school to trips to Washington, D.C., and the Outer Banks in middle school, to beating East Wilkes in football this year 53-52, we have all been right here together truly having the time of our lives.”
That time passed quickly even for those students who were eager to move on.
“I’m ready to be out of here to be honest with you,” said Jaylen Mayes, who expects to play college football in the near future, although he has yet to choose where.
Mayes advised future graduates to take time to appreciate their final year. “Senior year goes by fast so enjoy it because you probably won’t see these people again.”
“Enjoy it because it goes by fast,” said Lucio Avilez. “Senior year is the fastest year I guess because you know it’s your last year.”
It was commencement itself that was a bit overwhelming, however.
“It’s a lot to take in right now. It’s the last time you’ll ever do high school all at once,” said Avilez, who valued the relationships made over any other experience in high school.
Avilez said he thought the most important part of his high school career had been, “meeting new people, friends, the friendships that we grew over time.”
Some relationships had to evolve over the time spent in school together often leading to partings that prepared the graduates for the moment they would be parting ways.
“High school provides the perfect setting for letting go,” said Arrianna Collins in her graduation speech.
“We let go of friends throughout all of our high school career. Maybe we let go of our friends because of differences in our ideas. Maybe we let go because they became too toxic or maybe we let go because we were sure they would leave us first. Sometimes we lose friends because of our relationships we form with others whether that be platonic or romantic.
“No matter what the reason we had to go let go because things were no longer a match. High school provides the perfect setting for letting go. No matter what the reason we had to go let go because things were no longer a match.”
Although the Elkin school system is no longer a match for the graduates, the lessons they have learned are expected to serve them well into their future.
“Today is the time for looking forward,” said Bailey Young in her commencement address, reminding graduates, “It’s a chance to start over. Whether you wish to reinvent yourself or remain the same is up to you.
“The future can feel overwhelming and every decision we make feels permanent, but we would not be here today if we were not ready.”
It has been through extensive cooperative efforts that the graduating class has been prepared for this time to take on their future.
“Coaches, teachers, advisers and staff have been with us since the beginning,” said Bianca Soos during her speech, “guiding us and witnessing us mature into responsible young adults.
“They passed on the knowledge, skills and advice to us. They have been selfless and incredibly supportive, yet behind the scenes outside of school is a support system of equal strength. Our friends, family, parents have dedicated constant love and devotion. They have been and will continue to be mentors to us for the rest of our lives.”
As a way to honor these individuals who have been so influential, Principal Joel Hoyle requested members of the graduating class remember who has been influential in their 13 years of schooling.
“I’m sure each of you has someone that you can think of that made a positive impact. My challenge to you is to become that person in someone else’s life,” said Hoyle. “Make it a point in your life to take that greatness [within you] to make a positive impact for somebody else.”
“At the end of the day your actions, both good and bad, can have deep impact upon other people,” said Mia Burchette. “A quick show of compassion or a helping hand can completely change someone’s day or even their life for the better.”
“Sometimes you may not realize that you’re sharing love with someone, but even though it is quite cliché, the little things you do really can brighten someone’s day,” said Collins.
“Simply smiling and waving at your classmate can make that person feel better and have a more positive outlook for the rest of the day. In the end, high school is truly about learning how to love your fellow classmates in spite of your differences. Above all we must remember that we not only influence our own lives, but the lives of those around us.”
While it’s important to be concerned about others, Elkin High School students also have learned to be compassionate to themselves.
“While it’s important to treat others with kindness and attempt to spread happiness and joy wherever whenever you can, your own happiness is what matters most,” said Burchette. “At the end of the day, your own perception of yourself and your own dreams and aspirations are what matter most because other people may come and go from your life, but you are with yourself until the very end.”
“We all have to let go of caring constantly about other people’s opinions about us because that is exhausting,” said Collins, “and no one can truly please themselves if they’re too busy pleasing everyone else first.”
Sometimes there’s no pleasing some people.
“No matter what you do there will be people who will not agree with your actions and who will maybe even dislike you for them,” said Burchette. “You can be nothing but kind to a person, but he or she may still find something to dislike about you, but that is perfectly fine.”
Continuing to move forward with one’s goals is what is important, according to Macy.
“Never give up or limit your self-potential, but overcome obstacles by regrouping and finding a better way to achieve your goals. Do not be afraid of hard work and you will end up in the place that you want to be,” said Macy.
“The amount of opportunities that await us are endless.”
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TBeanieTaylor.