by Bob Grawey
Spectrum High School’s third graduating class took its place in the school’s history Friday night, May 27.
But unlike the past two graduating classes known for pioneer spirits and crazy laughter, this class is defined by high standards of achievement as seen by speeches made during commencement.
Class valedictorian Clara Ford was one of 10 seniors finishing high school with a perfect 4.0 grade point average. She also delivered the class of 2011 graduation speech.
Ford offered glimpses of the past four years at Spectrum for her class. It is, and will always be, the only class to attend the school all four years while Spectrum called portable classrooms and office space “home.”
“It seems like just yesterday we had cardboard boxes in Mrs. Morrow’s room for lockers,” Ford recalled. “For the first month we separated into groups; you know, Kaleidoscope kids, Rivers kids, the home-school kids and then everybody else. Slowly we made new friends and came together as one class.”
She added that her class has come a long way from skinned knees to learning what really hurts in life, from mismatched clothes to overcoming stereotypes and high school judgments, and from playground tag to discovering what a real friend is.
But Ford then confessed to her class and those present that she felt her class was “horrible,” “terrible,” “awful” and “just plain bad.”
Pausing briefly to let that sink in, Ford continued.
“We are horrible at failing,” she emphasized, “at not succeeding in things we attempt wholeheartedly, at not being amazing in the things we love to do. We are terrible at not giving it our all, ALL the time; 110 percent. We are just plain bad at being monotonous; at being the unique, different and sometimes crazy individuals that we are. We are awful at not coming together as one class, one group, one family.”
The graduating senior told classmates that they all have a story based on whatever they decide to bring from their past into their future.
Faculty speaker Eric Bubna also talked about each senior’s story. He asked the graduates, “Twenty years from now, what will your story be?”
Bubna laid out parallel stories. One was filled with hard work, a successful career, service to the community, meaningful relationships, academic success and victory in the face of adversity.
The other story was laden with underachievements, broken relationships, moral failures, discontent and unfulfilled potential.
He added that for the graduates’ first 18 years, they lived in the pages of their parents’ story; a preface to their own story. Now they stood on the cusp of beginning to write the first pages of their story.
“Great stories will be written if you believe that you are the author of your story,” Bubna said. “If you take responsibility for the events of your life. If you believe that your success, or failure, is dependent upon your choices and your attitudes.”
The science teacher told the class of 2011 their parents’ education and success was not bestowed on them. Rather, graduates had to earn their own way to those things.
Likewise, Bubna said great relationships and marriages are not automatic. They transpire through the hard work of selflessness, compassion, and frequent forgiveness and unconditional love in the face of hard circumstances.
Even for graduates who may have been brought up in homes filled with discontent and disharmony, Bubna said it was still possible for them to write a happy story, too.
“It may be harder to write a happy story based on your first 18 years,” Bubna admitted, “but writing a happy story is always hard to write. Good stories don’t come easy.”
He continued, saying a happy story required tough decisions when the economy crashes, a boss hands out some kind of mistreatment or the doctor delivers bad news. How one responds to those things is of utmost importance.
“If when the pain comes, and it will, you spend your time feeling victimized and focus on how rough life is, and how unfair the world is and how you don’t deserve this,” Bubna told graduates, “then you’re going to have a sad story. If, however, you decide to spend your time thinking about what your responsibility is, in light of your pain, and how your behavior is going to affect you, then you’re going to be much better off.”
Ford said this process begins in how the graduates approach their college years.
Rather than being set on a specific major right away, Ford said it is OK to “mess up,” making lots of mistakes and changing majors.
“Let’s find out what makes us smile, or cry, what makes us tick. The only way to learn all that,” Ford told classmates, “is to make mistakes. The only real mistake in life is not getting back up when we fall after we’ve been knocked down. Mistakes make us who we are, so make them. Make them and change. Change so you can learn and finally know who you are and who you want to be.”
Ford added that the 2011 seniors should try things they do not think they can do and to always stand up for what they believe is right.
“Make it a goal to live life people around you wish they could achieve,” Ford admonished. “Be their inspiration.”