I think I'm ready for another adventure

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“Good evening, everyone. For those who don’t know me, I am Anna Verdine. I wanted first to say thank you all for coming out tonight to support the graduating class. Second, I would like to give a huge congratulations to the class of 2023 and in case someone hasn’t told you tonight, I am so proud of everyone of you.

“When I was first told I had to give a speech tonight I was honestly worried. I am not the best with my words, and between us, the original theme of my speech was dinosaurs. My entire plan was to stand up here for about five minutes and just tell an endless amount of facts. For example, the Dilophosaurus lived in the Early Jurassic … I’m only joking. I wouldn’t do that to you guys. Also, my mom said I absolutely could not do that tonight. But if you’re interested you can find me after the ceremony, and we can chat it up. Anyway, this left me really having to brainstorm actual topics besides a stand-up comedy show or a dance party, however neither are off the table.

“What I decided on are a collection of lessons that I have learned through my years here that I will carry with me and I hope you all will too.

“I don’t know if any of you have seen the movie “The Good Dinosaur” but it is one of my favorite movies, thus I decided to use it as inspiration for this speech. It also may have been the only way I could think of to subtly incorporate dinosaurs. Although this movie is targeted at more the younger audience, it really does teach many foundational lessons.

“Those that stood out to me the most would be to: overcome your fears, be confident in who you are, know that you are capable of doing great things, and make your mark.

“First _your fears; this is much harder than it sounds. There are so many things I haven’t done just because I was scared. I encourage you right now to think of some things you haven’t done out of fear. Where did it lead you? What did you miss? Maybe we just have to face the things we fear. That might be making a mistake or disappointing someone if you fail. But how will you succeed if you do not take the first step and go for it? By overcoming small fears at a time, you will open so many opportunities for yourself. You will become a better person for it. Avoiding your fear is no safer in the long run. Fear has two meanings: forget everything and run or face everything and rise. The choice is yours.

“Second _Be confident in who you are; in the most simple terms, “you be you”. Express yourself in whatever way you feel comfortable. I have a friend who taught me this. Throughout this year I have watched her become a more confident person. I watched her find herself. From the way she dresses, to the people she hangs out with, to even the way she acts. She found who she always wanted to be. Now I’m not gonna lie, she is not a force to be messed with. Honestly, it has inspired me. I think I watched her and thought maybe I could do that too. Maybe I just needed to stop caring about what others think about me so much. She made me feel comfortable to just be me and I don’t know if she knows I’m talking about her right now but I thank her for that. I think we can all learn from her. With confidence you can win all things before they even start.

“Third _Know that you are capable of great things; the only thing stopping you from reaching your true potential is you. Everybody has the chance to change the world. The path in reaching your full potential is often so extremely difficult. However, it only requires you to aim high and persevere. Your mind may already be filled with assumptions and self-doubt, but you cannot be your own enemy. You have to stay motivated. Even when you think you have given it your all or maybe you have already given up, it’s never too late to start again. There are always more chances. You just have to reach out.

“ Finally_Make your mark; Leave an everlasting impact. Be remembered for something great at least by someone. I bet some of you all are thinking of somebody right now. For me, my person would be my dad. He told me that life is a choice and that I should make every moment count. I honestly live by this every day. I am so grateful for all the moments I get to spend with all the people I care about. I thank my dad for teaching me that. There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think about him or what he said.

“If you look at the bigger picture of the world, dinosaurs left a pretty crazy mark. Like literally, I think fossils are pretty dope but scientifically, they provided us with so much information about Earth millions of years before us. Anyway, as you leave here tonight I encourage you to think of some way you can positively influence at least one person in your life. I’m sure many of you already have, but I think it is something we should all strive to do.

“It’s crazy that you can learn all that from a little apatosaurus from a Disney movie of all things. Fun fact before I finish, according to the Britannica the apatosaurus could weigh up to 45 tons, so like 90,000 lbs. I also highly suggest that everybody goes home and watches the “The Good Dinosaur.

“Thank you all again for being here and for letting me have the opportunity to speak to all of you. To the graduating seniors, change the world or do something crazy, I cannot wait to see all of the great things you go on to do.”

“Good evening, “Before presenting the awards, I would like to extend my sincerest congratulations to all of our students this evening. Tonight, each one of you before me, will collectively share in the same milestone moment, yet each one of your paths has differed. As you move into the future, use this moment as a reminder that there is no script, and for some of us, moving from the familiar to the unknown is scary, but I am hopeful you will see the beauty in the unknown, as each of you has the unique opportunity to write your own story.

“And, in times of adversity, take a moment, and resharpen your pencil, as it is through our challenges that we build character and grow. Furthermore, never be afraid to use the eraser, correct any mistakes by learning from them – and turn your stumbling blocks into stepping stones as you recraft your next chapter.

“And lastly, remember what is the most important, It’s the lead, it’s what is on the inside that allows you to write your best chapters. So move forward with kindness, practice gratitude and ensure you celebrate every accomplishment, big and small - and never stop writing your story as it will have the most amazing ending.

“Parents, guardians, grandparents, aunts, uncles . . . last night I sat where you are sitting as my oldest daughter graduated. I know the support, the rides, the homework, and the worries you have had through the years as you supported your child or loved one.

“We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for everything you do each and everyday to support our students. You are our first award winner – students please give your loved ones who have supported you along the way a round of applause.”

“Class of 2023, by this point in the ceremony we have been welcomed and congratulated multiple times. Yes, we have earned it no doubt, but we didn’t do it alone. We all have someone to thank for our successes and achievements. Whether it be family, friends, or faculty and whether they are here tonight in person, live streaming or in spirit, we are all here to celebrate what we have accomplished together.

“When sitting down to write this speech, I reflected on our last 13 years and realized one thing. These were our years. We have grown alongside each other, living through many of the same crazy, exciting, and weird experiences that we will cherish, or that will forever haunt our memories. May we never have to desperately search for an unlocked high school bathroom again. Although we may not have been the closest with every graduate that is sitting around us tonight, it remains true that we spent these years together and are connected as a class. It is an honor to be speaking to you tonight.

“Being the Valedictorian only means one thing. It’s the highest average, but in reality it is just a number. It does not make a person older or wiser, and certainly doesn’t make them qualified to give you advice about our futures. We’ve grown up together! Thus, I will not pretend to know how to overcome the challenges that we’ll face after high school. Nor give a speech based off some cliché phrase about change, courage, or following your dreams. I can only share a simple life lesson and how it relates to our future. And remember, I just admitted I’m not qualified to be giving advice. “But here is the attempt: Ask for help when you need it and offer help when you can.

When faced with a challenge . . . ask for help. If you’re overwhelmed … ask for help. If you’re lost . . . and you don’t have GPS . . . ask for help. Seriously though, there is no shame in asking for help. Yet many of us are too proud or too scared to ask for assistance.

“ Let’s face it, Google and YouTube don’t have all the answers and the thought of artificial intelligence is currently a little scary.

“A lot can be learned from accepting help from those around you, seeking professional advice and being mentored by those with experience. Now, there is also merit in persevering through a challenge, but when you’re struggling and the load it too much to bear it is time to ask for help.

“So, Class of 2023, as we go into the future, let us find people around us and above us that we may rely on to guide us on our separate paths, whatever they may be. Once we have achieved our success, whether that be a career, the next graduation, or rank, I would like you to recall the meaning of the following words from Tim McGraw. “When you get where you're goin', don't forget turn back around and help the next one in line. Always stay humble and kind”.

“Thank you and congratulations again Class of 2023.”

“Good evening; welcome ladies and gentlemen, distinguished faculty members, proud parents, family, and friends. And most importantly, I need to give a big welcome to the graduates of Newark High School, class of 2023!! Tonight, we gather to celebrate a momentous milestone in your lives. The culmination of years of hard work, dedication, and perseverance.

“For those who do not know me, I have been teaching at Newark High School for eight years. I am also a Newark Alum, graduating in 2009. It is an absolute honor and privilege to stand before you as your teacher and lifelong Newark Red to address you on this joyous occasion. I am extremely humbled that the seniors chose me as their Graduation Speaker, as well as their choice for yearbook dedication.

“I’ve had the privilege to teach many of these students as freshmen and follow them through upper-level math courses. Many students who have had me the past two-to-three years know I’m not the “funny” teacher that will crack jokes during class. They know my speech will be brief, in hopes I can express how proud I am of each and every one of them and how much I’m going to miss this group of young adults.

“Seniors, never underestimate the power of your dreams. You have been equipped with a wealth of knowledge and perseverance that empowers you to tackle any challenge that will arise. Be prepared to face obstacles and setbacks. Remember the road to success is rarely a linear journey.

“I know, you may be thinking I’m going to try to add some math jokes in or remind you of when you took Algebra I with Hersh, Walsh or me, yes you learned that linear is “y=mx+b” and that is most likely engraved in your head for life, but a linear journey refers to a path that follows a straight or direct line to reach goals or success. The path to your goals may not be “straight”, you may have setbacks or challenges and that’s OK!!

“Graduation is not just a celebration of your academic achievement but also a celebration of personal growth, friendships, and the experiences that have shaped you into the remarkable individuals you are today. Together you have inspired one another, and you have formed bonds that will endure the test of time and distance.

“As you celebrate, let us not forget that behind every successful graduate, there are countless individuals who have supported and guided you along the way. Tonight, is also a moment to express our gratitude to your parents, family members, friends and teachers who have provided you with love, encouragement, and have always believed in your abilities. They have been your pillars of support and their presence here tonight is a testament to their pride in your accomplishments.

“As you embark on your respective paths, remember the importance of community and collaboration. No great endeavor is achieved alone. I think that is why Newark is so special. Living in a small community has allowed you all to make strong bonds and connections in and outside of school. Cherish these relationships you have built and cherish the community you are from.

 “Fourteen years ago, I sat on this same football field with my classmates, with all of our friends and family in the stand watching the class of 2009 end their time at Newark High School. Like all of you, some had plans to attend a 2 or 4 year college or university, go right into the workplace, join the military, some had plans to travel or move right out of Newark, while some chose to stay close to home. “I consider myself lucky to have grown up in such a small tight-nit community where my friends from Lincoln, Kelley, Middle and High School are still in my life today. They are friends that turned into family. A few of us stayed in Newark or close by, while others now live all across the US. I reached out to my closest friends for some “words of advice” as you begin your next journey in life. “One said: “Life is unexpected, tell your friends and family you love them and appreciate them every single day, as you don’t know what tomorrow may bring.”

“Another wrote: “It’s OK to try something new and discover it’s not for you. You never know if you will like something until you try it. The cool thing about entering the world as an adult is that there are so many different versions of yourself you can be and YOU get to choose.” “A final note: “Be patient, just because it’s taking time doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Never give up!

“So, as you leave the familiar halls of Newark and step into the world, remember that you carry within you the potential to make a difference. Be bold, be compassionate, and above all be true to yourselves. “As teachers, we often speak of the impact we hope to have on our students, but let me assure you that the impact you have had on us, as educators, is immeasurable. You have inspired us with your unwavering determination. We have learned from you just as much as you have learned from us.

On behalf of the entire faculty, I want to express how proud we are of each and every one of you. We have watched you grow and become remarkable humans. As you leave Newark High School, know that you carry a piece of it with you as you will forever be a Newark Red, and we will always carry a piece of you with us.

“Congratulations Class of 2023!! May your future be filled with endless possibilities, and may you leave your inevitable mark on the world with whatever path your journey does take you on. THANK YOU!”

“Seniors, in a few moments you will officially be graduates of Newark High School. I want to again thank you all for your hard work and dedication.

“When I arrived here in December - I had to hit the ground running, but for all of you, I was another Principal in the office, and you all had to learn to adjust . . . again. And you did so very well.

“You have been leaders in the school, and have been wonderful to get to know. I’ve been to sporting events, drama productions, and musical performances and you have never let me down. The Senior Trip was such a fun experience, fire alarms and all. I have been so proud of the artwork and tech projects I’ve seen you create, the classroom discussions I’ve heard you participate in, and I cannot even express how wonderful Capstone day was.

“I am so proud to be here and I thank all of you. I would also like to thank my team, including our two Assistant Principals Addie Klaehn and Joe Canori.

“I have been lucky to have many mentors and people in my life offering advice. I’ll leave you with something my Grandma used to say. When times were tough, Nana would often say “This too, shall pass.”

“You will inevitably face difficult times in your life, obstacles that seem too much to overcome, or times when the cards just seem to be stacked against you, but remember, “This too shall pass”. Those times are temporary and are learning experiences.

Now, this is also true when you find yourself in a wonderful experience, a perfect time in your life, the best job, or surrounded by all your loved ones. In times like this, it is important to remember that “This too shall pass” meaning – enjoy every moment. Cherish those around you. Appreciate all your wins, great or small. Be present.

“I now understand what Nana meant all those times she shared this phrase. So just like your high school years, or even this celebration this evening, “This too shall pass”

“So enjoy every moment, and persevere through the tough times. You will grow exponentially from each of these experiences. I wish you all the very best and look forward to hearing about all the things that you go on to do! Congratulations!”