The final year of high school is often filled with questions about the future. Where to go to college? What career to pursue? Who to take to prom? But this year’s class of 2021 had even more uncertainties because of COVID.
WPLN’s Juliana Kim and Damon Mitchell listened to graduation speeches across Middle Tennessee, including ones delivered by Humberto Franco Sanchez from KIPP Nashville Collegiate High School, Eliana Safer from Station Camp High School in Gallatin, and John Hall Steltzner from Northeast High School in Clarksville. The recent graduates talked about grief, working through struggle, and what’s in store for the future.
Listen to the radio story above.
Humberto Franco Sanchez, KIPP Nashville Collegiate High School, Nashville, Tenn.
Today, I am standing before you, outside of uniform, in a vibrant tie, and a lovely flowered cap. Today is the last day our clothes will resemble each other’s so much. I ask you to remember the first time you put on your KIPP uniform. For that first week of freshman year, I left my new 8-hour school day with an eerily, distinct, pounding headache. I was told by my mother, A ver si sigues bien (let’s see if you continue to do well), her means of warning me the immense increase in academic rigor and workload to come. Looking ahead, you may be rocking sweatpants into your a.m. college class, business casual attire into your internships and work uniforms of countless possibilities. Looking further ahead, here will be scrubs, suits, harnesses, soldier uniforms and numerous other possibilities. What I think is beautiful about this choice is that it is yours alone and yours to change at will. Your choice today does not have to be your choice tomorrow. Embrace your choice and choose what you will be wearing out into the world. I cannot wait to see the different styles 2021 will rock in the future.
Eliana Safer, Station Camp High School, Gallatin, Tenn.
It’s truly an honor to be standing up here tonight because I know I’m representing a group of individuals that are kind, caring, ambitious and that each one of them is about to have their moment when they walk across the stage right now. When something doesn’t go as you plan, you can take it as an offense and compound it into a skyscraper of despair. But the amazing this is, We don’t have to let everything bar us from achieving the lives we want. You always have a choice, You may not love all your options, but you always have a choice. Choose to live the life you want, or what you think you want at the time. Choose to accept change and bring it in as it comes, because it’s a matter of when, not if. And choose to believe that the reason you lose something today might be the very reason you gain something better tomorrow. I think Robert Frost best says everything surrounding tonight. He said, “I can sum up in three words everything I’ve learned about life: It goes on.”
John Hall Steltzner, Northeast High School, Clarksville, Tenn.
As our high school chapter comes to a close, we can often times forget everything that was put behind us. But now that we’re here we have time to reflect on when things maybe weren’t so bright. September 1 of last year, I lost the most important person in my life. My grandmother lost her year-long battled with cancer, and I was forever stained with her absence in my life. It pains me knowing that she isn’t here for this moment. But I was able to keep going. The loss that had hindered became the strongest motivation that I will ever have. Past versions of ourselves during times of struggle serve as reminders of who we once were to accentuate how far we have come, how far we have grown, how far we can go and then beyond.