BY ANGELO LYNN
PROCTOR — The upbeat mood of the overflowing crowd at the Proctor Junior Senior High School graduation matched the blue skies and bright sunshine this past Saturday morning as 22 seniors graduated in the class of 2022.
Senior class treasurer Maggie McKearin, who was also standout athlete in all three sports, kicked off the outdoor ceremony under a tent on the school’s field by welcoming parents, friends and community members, then added a special thank-you to teachers and administrators.
“Your guidance and care has led us here all in one piece,” she told those assembled. “We will always be thankful for the help you have given us.” She added a special thank you to coaches. “Your dedication to Proctor athletics has given us the chance to succeed like many of our siblings did before us. I am forever grateful for every season, win or lose, that I got to play for Proctor.”
She ended her speech with thanks to her classmates in a special poem, including appreciation to Castleton University, where she and several of her classmates will attend, “for keeping a lot of us not too far apart.”
First-year principal Jennifer McLemore addressed the class, parents and friends acknowledging that she was warned she would tear up during the ceremony after getting to know the Proctor students and community. Indeed, she and others got out their handkerchiefs on a few occasions, notably during Salutatorian Laci French’s speech, but she made it through her own comments in which she encouraged the Class of 2022 to view their lives as a four-leaf clover, with the four leaves representing health, friendship, love and financial success. “Seek ways to actively improve each one (of those leaves) and you will be fortune,” she said.
Appropriately, physical education teacher Tiffany Esslinger was asked to deliver the graduation speech and she did so with humor, directness and wisdom, initially noting that the number 22 had special significance for her in several ways.
“Class of 2022: I know you’re a special class in my heart and I know the stars have aligned for me to be your guest speaker… 22 is a special number for me. It was my basketball number in college… On my 22nd birthday I had 22 points and 22 rebounds to put me over the 1,000 mark. This special occasion was 20 years ago. Now you’re connected with me and my love of the number 22 even more. This means you’ll have to promise to keep in touch…
“You are our future nurses, teachers, physical therapists, law enforcement officers, business men and women, tradesmen, military personnel and even a stuntman. I wish you nothing but the best as you move forward in making your next chapter your very own and I hope you also know that you can always turn the page and start again if things don’t go exactly how you planned. Hint, they will not.”
She offered five points of advice via well-known quotes; seeds, she said, that she hoped would take root.
- “Take care of your body, it’s the only place you have to live…. Move your body every single day… I hope you spend time taking care of your body not just by moving it but by spending time in nature. I hope you meditate, journal, jam out to music, talk to friends, find a higher power that can guide you, read, create and reach out to loved ones often. …Find the things that you need to fill your heart, head and soul.”
- “Be a good human. Put your grocery cart all the way back; say please and thank you; treat others with kindness; be honest, be trustworthy, be responsible with other people’s time and hearts, be punctual, show gratitude, follow through on things you say you will do. You know right from wrong — the right decision will leave you feeling at peace. Your efforts to be a good human will never go unnoticed. Ever.”
- “People may not remember exactly what you said or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel…. My point is to pay attention to how you show up, to what you radiate, what energy you bring to each and every situation. Your energy introduces you before you even speak. Will you be the person who leaves people feeling loved or shut down, welcomed or rejected, inspired or uninspired, confident or incapable? You do have an effect on everyone around you; you get to choose what kind.”
- “Energy flows where attention goes… Focusing on the bad only multiplies the bad. Yes, there are many lessons in the bad, so keep those lessons and move on. You need to find the good, the silver lining in each day/situation and focus on that. Make the good multiply.”
- “Don’t practice what you don’t want to become… You play on how you practice is a quote that every athlete has heard. Your practice is your everyday life. Your choices, your plans, how you do your work, how you treat others, where you spend your time. Practice and emulate those characteristics of who you want to be.”
She ended encouraging graduates to soak life in when they’re on life’s peaks and “radiate your joy and energy. When you’re in the valleys, find your footing and believe in your ability to fight and claw your way back up. And remember that you will always have a place to come back to if you need to see a familiar face. I hope you all know that you’re loved by all of the faculty here at Proctor, by your friends and family and by the community.”
Salutatorian Laci French followed with a moving speech in which she recognized each of her classmates by name for their special contributions. “Not only have we become great friends,” she told them, “but we have become a family. And today, as we celebrate each other and our accomplishments, we will also reminisce on the incredible times we have had together.”
And she left her classmates with this advice: “So what makes you happy; life is too short to spend your time pleasing everyone else, you’re important too. Let these memories be part of your story, and go make new ones. Never forget where you came from and always remember you will have a safe place in Proctor… Leave an impact wherever you go, just like you all have on my life.”
Valedictorian Ashley Coltey urged her classmates to be responsible for writing their own stories. “We’re going from the listeners to the speakers; each with our own voice and say in what we do. It is important to remember that in order to properly enter our futures we must take responsibility for them. You control the pen that writes your story; don’t be afraid to stray away from the lines. Only you can take the black ink of challenges and reality and spin it into the golden lace of accomplishment.”
“No matter what life throws at us,” Coltey continued, “I’m fully confident that the class of 2022 can overcome it… In the words of Nelson Mandela, ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.’”