by Dawn Feddersen-Poindexter
In their last week as high school students, the seniors at Rogers High School were directed to write a letter to their future selves, seal it, and open it 20 years from now. Class valedictorian, Joelle Stangler, told her 312 fellow graduates that no matter where they saw themselves headed, life’s surprises would take all of them on adventures they never knew possible.
“One of the scariest things is accepting that life will always have the element of surprise. Each one of us can be caught off guard by it or catch it off guard,” she advised.
Stangler also surprised the crowd of 3,000 students, family, and friends by sharing a top 10 list she compiled of the class’ favorite things about their time at the school.
The list included the frenzy of homecoming and the unlucky teachers who had to preside over the chaos, the cafeteria’s sublime cookies and one teacher’s “epic” beard. Of course, No. 1 on the list was how much everyone would miss each other.
Superintendent Mark Bezek echoed Stangler’s sentiment when he reminded them, “Seniors, please realize that this is the last time the entire class of 2012 will ever be in the same room together.”
Though sad to leave behind so many fond memories, the entire class cheered mightily when he asked them if they were ready to move on. The only thing louder than the graduates’ cheers came when Bezek asked the parents if they were ready for some peace and quiet at home. This was followed by laughter from everyone in the fieldhouse at the bittersweet thought.
English teacher Michael Zeman addressed the crowd, remembering the day when he graduated from high school.
“I remember sitting there ready for anything. I thought I could take on the world,” he said.
He also remembers where he was sitting: way in the back with the other unfortunate students whose last names appear at the end of the alphabet. He called out, “Where my Z’s at?” to the five graduates who shared his impediment.
But once all his jokes were told, he turned serious. Remembering everyone who didn’t think he would be the successful teacher, coach, and family man he is today, he shared with the graduates the values he believes are his secrets to success.
He told them, “Live your life. Don’t let anyone stop you. Do what’s right. Do your best. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. That’s all.”