(Note: A graduation supplement will appear in the Echo Pilot on Tuesday, June 12)
Two years ago when Jacob DeCarli was elected president of the Greencastle-Antrim High School Class of 2018, he knew he would eventually have to speak at graduation.
He said that moment arrived in the blink of an eye as he delivered the welcome at Saturday morning's commencement ceremony on Kaley Field.
For the 10th year in a row, the weather cooperated and the ceremony was held outside with both sets of bleachers filled and people standing along the track.
Graduation is bittersweet, with many of the seniors together since kindergarten and the uncertainty of leaving Greencastle, home, friends and family, DeCarli said. However, no matter where they go, Greencastle-Antrim High School "has more than prepared us for our postgraduation careers."
Addressing parents worried about not being there to take care of their children all the time anymore, DeCarli said, "Don't worry, trust us ... we got this" and to his fellow graduates, "we did it!"
Valedictorian Alana Moore said anyone who knows her knows "I tend to overthink and worry over even the smallest of details." In reflecting about her time at G-AHS, she has "realized just how little the little things matter."
She talked about the amazing support of teachers, administrators, staff and fellow students and said, "I know personally that I would not be who I am today if I had gone to school anywhere else."
The graduates will encounter turbulent waters in the river of life, but there will be calm waters around the bend.
"When a river encounters an obstacle, it does not stop and wait for it to move — it finds another path," Moore said. "So, Class of 2018, as our high school days fade behind us, let us not only keep moving forward, but keep looking forward to the limitless potential in front of us as we forge our own way."
Kirti Venkatesh, salutatorian recalled experiences of the Class of 2018 from frantic freshmen to "seniors with senioritis."
"The special bonds we have made here and will make in the future are so important because they shape our lives tremendously," she said. "Because with every interaction, you are impacting a life in a special way."
Venkatesh encouraged her fellow classmates, wherever they go, "do it with all your passion."
"We all have different futures planned ahead of us and I know we are going to do great things, branching out near and far with our dreams," she said. "However, we must not forget where our values and roots were built upon these last 13 years, here, at Greencastle-Antrim School District, a place we can always call home."
"What does success look like?" asked Dr. Kendra Trail, superintendent, before giving the soon-to-be graduates three components of success:Work hard, do you best and persevere. Be kind, respectful and positive. Be a person of integrity.
Trail also introduced the commencement speaker, Melissa Bard, a 1987 graduate of Greencastle-Antrim High School, who is vice chancellor for human resources at the California State University System in Long Beach, the largest system of higher education in the country with 50,000 employees.
Bard talked about growing up as the only child of a single mother who could not afford to go to college, but took classes whenever possible and earned a bachelor's degree in 10 years.
"It was a long road, but I persevered," said Bard, who then took two and a half years to earn a master's degree.
"Call upon the resources and experiences that you have, whatever they are," she said. "Use your past, both good and bad. Rely on your character and your skills to propel yourself into what you want for your future. I am living proof it can be done."
She told the graduates they will need perseverance, they will fail, they need a strong support system and most of all they will need personal courage ... "the courage to have a vision for your own success that does not look like everyone else's."
"Today I shared my story, and I hope that you learned something from it. Today you are beginning to write your own story, with a blank page in front of you. It's scary and exciting at the same time. But just remember that you and you alone are writing the story of your life. Take control and plan your destiny," she concluded.
The mission of the Greencastle-Antrim School District is to create an environment that fosters lifelong learners and positive citizens, said Dr. Ed Rife, G-AHS principal, stating, "The Class of 2018 has embraced this."
"Never let fear stand in the way of an opportunity," he advised shortly before the awarding of diplomas began. "You will always be part of the Greencastle-Antrim community. We are Blue Devil proud."
Applause, cheers and the occasional cowbell were heard as each graduate's name was read, along with their future plans, before they walked forward to receive their diplomas, then the ceremony concluded with confetti, Silly String, beach balls and flying mortarboards.