Editor's Note: High School graduates from across North America have had the pleasure of sitting with family and friends as the 2019 school year came to an end. I had the honor of attending the Thousand Islands High School (Clayton and Cape Vincent, NY) Graduation on Saturday, June 22. Of course I was one of the proud grandparents, but I was also struck by the poignant remarks given by three graduates of the Class of '19. Madyson Amo, Sabrina Burns and Emily Locke. Their words were impressive and I am pleased to share them with you our River readers.
From Bridge to Lighthouse: by Madyson Amo
Our alma mater reads “From bridge to lighthouse we are joined with common goal in mind." Our two small River towns have taught us strength in amiability and the importance of intimacy. Just like the River flows, we have flowed through 13 years of school together.
We have all experienced the need for a riverside ice cream cone, as our classmate reps the staff shirt and gives us some extra sprinkles. The River wind on our face from a boat ride or bike ride as we chase the sunset. The sound of ship horns waking us up for school. The atrocious smell that lingers through our hallways. Summer tourists constantly in awe of our home, the place our roots were planted.
In my eyes, we are the luckiest kids in the world. Not because we never have to take another regents, or because we will never have to limit our lunch to 17 minutes again. But because we have been blessed enough to grow up in a place where you can watch beauty come directly from hard work. We watch the beauty of this town cycle and grow each year because of the labor of our neighbors.
Whenever we have a day off and go somewhere to hang out, there is a high chance that we will encounter our classmates, working hard. I believe this prepares us to become exceedingly successful adults, as we have valued hard work and persistence since our parents urged us to get our working papers at age 14. This place has seen the light in us, similar to the one that lies at the end of the Cape.
We are River Rats. We are boaters. We are sunset seekers. “with common goal in mind”, you may sit there and think...my goal is nothing like the person's next to me. But 1000 Islands has prepared us for any dream or goal that we may have. Whether you want to be a veterinarian, a cosmetologist, a doctor, a therapist, a business owner, or you want to enter the military, we all want to make our hometown and its residents proud.
While 1000 Islands has given us necessary tools, nothing was handed to us-a lesson vital to our achievements outside of high school. I encourage you all to steer your own boat, to do whatever will fulfill your own happiness. Succeed for yourselves.
Today we move our tassels, we pull our anchors, and we flow down the St. Lawrence River. We enter a new river, a river where we don’t quite know which way it flows. How it smells. The shape of the shoreline. Or the people that fill each boat. We only know where we think we want to end up, and I've seen it all in you-the strength. The intelligence. The determination. Wherever you want to be, you will end up. The Class of 2019, I challenge you to chase every sunset, to steer your ship towards the brightest of lighthouses, and always find a place for old T.l.
Thank You: By Emily Locke
We have all gotten to this point in our lives, so we must have done something right somewhere down the line. But I want to use this time to remind us all to not forget the importance of the little things in life, things that do not require any money or skills.
As we continue on with our lives I know we will all get busy and caught up in work, school, and our families, but it is important to remember that your success is not in what you have, but who you are. One does not have to have skill to have a good work ethic. You might think that getting good grades requires you to be smart, however, in my experience you can earn exceptional grades simply by having a good work ethic. This is true for everything in life, not just grades. Success is bound to come if you work hard enough.
Which brings me to my next piece of advice, which is to stay humble. If you work hard while staying humble, your success will speak for you. You have to find a balance between being proud of yourself and celebrating your victories while also being humble enough to allow others their time to shine as well. Gordon B. Hinckley once said, “Being humble means recognizing that we are not on Earth to see how important we can become, but to see how much difference we can make in the lives of others.”
Wherever we end up in life I feel it is important to remember that not only are you doing it for yourself, but for others as well, which is why remaining humble is something that is very important to me.
Finally I think the most meaningful thing to just about anyone in this world are the words, “thank you.” Saying those words can change a person’s day. Saying “thank you" is how you show someone that their actions matter and are noticed by others. Saying “thank you” allows people to stay humble in regards to their hard work as they are being recognized for what they are putting out into the world.
If we look back on our lives so far, I think we would realize that none of us would be up on this stage today if it weren’t for other people or actions. I think it is important for all of us to take a minute and reflect on all of those things which we should be thankful for getting us to this point and building the foundation for the rest of our lives.
I would like to thank all of my teachers for always being there and for yelling at me when I needed them to. I am thankful for all of the opportunities I have had and both the good and bad experiences which have come with those opportunities. Thank you to our communities, teachers, cafeteria workers, custodians, transportation staff, coaches, music department, and to my peers and classmates. Thank you for the field trips we have been on, the middle school activity nights, and billete day in Spanish. I want to personally thank the counselors and office staff, without them I definitely would not reached all of my goals for my senior year.
I want to thank my best friends and my sisters for their support whether it be laughing with me, listening to me complain, just being there for me, or dealing with my craziness. I want to thank my entire family for surrounding me with love and laughter.
Finally I want to thank my parents. Without my parents I would not be standing here today. They come to every one of my games, concerts, performances, and ceremonies. They support me in everything I do. They study with me, drive me to practices, stay up late to make sure I get home safe, forgive me when I mess up, and hold me when I just need a hug.
As we all continue on with our lives please remember to say “thank you" to everyone. Thank you all for listening to me today.
Remember Your Roots: by Sabrina Burns
Today is arguably one of the most important days of our young lives. Thus far, graduating high school is our biggest and most impressive accomplishment. Not everyone can say that they’ve survived and thrived as we all have through the trials and tribulations that thirteen years of school bring on.
After today, we start the rest of our lives, whether it be in the workforce, in college, or in the military. We’re not the same little kids as we were standing on this stage graduating from middle school four long years ago. As we move into starting the rest of our lives, I have some advice to give: Remember your roots.
Don’t forget where you come from as you move on to do bigger and better things Remember the people who gave you the tools that you needed in order to become who you will become. Remember the teachers, who gave you the knowledge you’ll need later in life. Remember your community, who cheered you on from the sidelines, encouraging you to go further than you ever thought possible. And lastly, don’t forget about your family, either chosen or biological, who stood beside you through it all and gave you the love you needed in order to believe in yourself.
As we move on with our lives outside of high school, I want all of us to take a minute and look at how far we have come. Each one of us has overcome obstacles and odds that didn’t look to be in our favor. I’m proud of every single one of us. I’m proud to stand up on this stage with this group of people. We all did it, and we will continue to do it. Just remember where you came from.
Editor's note: I thank these young ladies for sharing their stories with us. I have done little editing with the exception of capitalizing River (a TI Life standard) and separating into paragraphs. The sentiments of these three presentations can stand on their own, anytime. I also thank Kathy Hummel at TI High School for her assistance.