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TEXT OF STUDENTS' SPEECHES AND PRINCIPAL'S REMARKS AT GHS GRADUATION

June 5, 2017
 
Speeches at Granbury High School graduation on June 1, 2017, included the valedictory address by Emma McKelvain, salutatory address by Blake Steinmann, and senior response by class president Payton Holmgreen.  GHS principal Jeremy Ross closed the ceremony with congratulatory remarks.
 
Valedictory Address
Emma McKelvain, Valedictorian of the Class of 2017
 
Emma McKelvain  
 
Good evening parents, friends, administrators, teachers, and the Class of 2017.
 
It is an honor to speak to all of you tonight on this important occasion. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are approximately 3.5 million seniors graduating with us this year, and we all have some things in common. In these four years, we’ve all struggled. We’ve struggled to understand. We’ve struggled to fit in. We’ve struggled to get that research paper submitted before that midnight deadline. We’ve struggled to succeed.
 
Through it all, we have grown. We have changed. We have preserved. These challenges have driven us to achieve what we once thought was impossible, helped us to imagine a better world, and they helped us to unite with others who have shared these experiences.
 
Our challenges, no matter how difficult, have one thing in common: the people who helped us, encouraged us, and pushed us to keep moving forward. And now it is our turn to help others. I’d like to share a story about Yellowstone National Park.
 
In 1995, after being absent for almost 60 years, wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park. At the time, there were too many elk roaming the valleys and river banks, eating the young willow, aspen and cottonwood plants and overgrazing the grass. The elk were pushing the limits of Yellowstone’s carrying capacity.
 
The new wolves hunt the elk and the elk population shrank. Not only that, but the elk moved out of the valley and away from river banks, where they were too vulnerable to wolf attacks. This enabled the vegetation to regrow, and life that had once lived in Yellowstone returned.
 
The wolves helped trees, which were able to grow and enabled songbirds to return. Also, beavers came back and used the trees to build dams in the rivers, which created ponds for otters, muskrats, ducks, reptiles, and fish to live in. As a whole, the wolves impacted the lives of every animal in Yellowstone.
 
Most impressively, the wolves changed how the rivers flowed. When there was no vegetation to hold the riverbank soil, the rivers ran rampant due to erosion. With the recovering forest, the river channels narrowed and meandered less. This caused more pools to form, which was great for all of the ecosystems in Yellowstone. Life in Yellowstone has flourished ever since, and all it took was one simple act.
 
Graduates, what I am asking you to do is be the wolves and positively impact the people and lives around you.
 
We may not have realized it yet, but there are many people in this room to thank for helping us become the people we are today. Our parents and family members, who work tirelessly to provide for us. Our teachers who tried to send us off with the best education they could provide. Our friends who have been there every day. All of these people have helped us through our challenges and have helped us find success. Without them, we might not be sitting here today, and for that we thank you; our parents, our friends, our teachers, coaches, directors, and counselors, our families.
 
So graduates, when we leave today and start our new journey wherever it may be, I encourage you to help the people around you succeed, just as others have helped us.
 
Class of 2017, I wish you the best of luck on your future endeavors. Go follow your dreams and do what you can to help others and change the world.
 
Thank you.
 
Salutatory Address
Blake Steinmann, Salutatorian of the Class of 2017
 
Blake Steinmann  
 
Good evening fellow graduates, family members, faculty, and distinguished guests.  I would like welcome you all to this very special ceremony for the Granbury High School graduating class of 2017. Let me express my deepest appreciation to all of my teachers, coaches, friends and family members who helped to get me where I am right now; standing here in front of you.  I would like to start by specifically mentioning a few teachers who have had the biggest influence on me.
 
First, Mr. Todd Gibson has taught several of my engineering classes and has been the team sponsor for Formula 1 in Schools for both my Sophomore & Junior years.  He has been a great role model, encourager, and technical advisor who saw in me a desire to learn and apply mechanical skills.  He continually challenged me to be a leader and helped me to further develop critical thinking and advanced design skills. His hands-on approach to learning and ability to relate to the students made his class the one I looked most forward to attending daily.
 
I would describe myself as a math and science guy and the thought of reading Shakespeare in a high school English class was just not appealing, that is until I met Mrs. Jana Reid.  Her enthusiasm for literature, outstanding knowledge of the curriculum, high expectations, creative presentation which fostered interesting classroom discussions and excellent feedback, helped me to grow tremendously in technical writing as well as  enjoy and appreciate English.  I would say Jana Reid has been one of the most influential teachers in my life, inspiring me to better myself today as an avenue to success in the future; and above all, she’s a Baylor graduate!
 
Then there is Mrs. Tammy Roe who was my Pre-Cal teacher last year.  She challenged me to develop advanced critical math skills and fostered my love of mathematics. I would describe her as optimistic, humorous, and related easily with the students.  Her disposition made her highly valued by myself and all of my fellow students. I appreciate her challenging me so I have a solid foundation for future math at Baylor.
 
And finally, I would like to mention my tennis, Coach Mr. Tyson Stewart.  Tennis is a year round sport and on the average I spent roughly 20 hours a week with him.   He is a man of strong principle and character who demanded 100% effort in practice and during tournaments. I learned that spectacular performances are preceded by spectacular preparation.  He inspired me to be my best and to do my best both on and off the courts. He has a great personality and I would consider him a real friend. The district is losing an outstanding coach and mentor!
 
And finally I’d like to thank my parents for being such an encouragement all my life.  From all the years of tennis lessons at TCU or allowing me to pursue my dream of becoming a pilot or taking numerous flight lessons this pass year.  They are always positive and taught me how to appreciate a good education, and the value and benefit of it. They brought me up in a Christian home, taught me morals and how to stand apart from the world.  There have been numerous 15-16 hour days, and your love and encouragement meant the world to me. I love you both and appreciate you making me into the young man I am today.
 
Whether or not you were moved by any of these teachers or stories, I believe we have each felt the impact of the most paramount event of our High School years, the building of the 100,000 sq. ft.  Career Technology & Education/or CTE Annex.   This multi-million dollar project, paid for by community support through the 2013 bond initiative, allowed for this amazing building to be built and opened our senior year.  Challenges there were:  during our junior year we endured endless construction, a lot of noise, parking challenges, a few days of no electricity or water! We even had an early release one day because of this.    However, wouldn’t you say in the end, it was all worth it?
 
Out of the 2000+ students in our student body, 93% of us have had one or more classes in CTE.  For those of you not familiar with what I’m talking about, this is the annex that houses over 17 career concentrations such as Engineering or STEM classes, Law & Public Safety, Health Science, Pharmacy & EMT, Business & Finance, Education & Training, Hospitality & Tourism, Vet Medicine, Welding, Horticulture, Transportation, Graphic Design, Video Production and finally Career Development. The opportunities afforded in these classes begun to prepare us for our future careers, higher education and offered us 27 industry recognized certifications.
 
In my aerospace engineering class we have been building a Van’s Aircraft RV-12 Airplane in the new hanger and will be up and flying in just a few weeks.  The Business & Finance students have designed a business plan & opened up a school store which sells refreshments and school supplies; which has been very financially successful this year. In the Culinary Arts area there is a state of the art kitchen and soon-to-be-opened bistro which will be opened to the public a couple of days a week.  These are just a few examples of the innovation, technological and advanced opportunities we have been afforded.  I’d say we have been exceedingly blessed to have been given such tremendous opportunities through our high school.
 
As Ronald Reagan once said, “Each generation goes further than the generation preceding it because it stands on the shoulders of that generation. You will have opportunities beyond anything we've ever known.”  The opportunities we’ve taken advantage of these last 4 years at the Granbury High School are just stepping stones to the opportunities ahead of us and I’d say we’re off to a really good start.
 
We are ready to begin the next journey of our lives.  We are the class of 2017, the powerhouse of innovation, creativity, and technology.  Whatever you choose to do, let this just be the beginning to leave your mark in the world for the better. Choose a career you love, give it the best there is in you, and Class of 2017, seize your opportunities!
 
God Bless you all and congratulations to all the graduates! 
 
Response for the Class of 2017
Payton Holmgreen, Senior Class President
 
Payton Holmgreen  
 
It’s fun to look at our voyage and to see how far we have come.  For example, 12 years ago the iPhone and you-tube had not been created.
 
For whatever reason you came to Granbury, whether your dad got a new job here, you wanted to be closer to your family, or even if you've lived here your whole life. We will always be Granbury Pirates.
 
Most of us started our high school career in a former elementary slash middle school with small hallways, which made passing period resemble 5 o’clock traffic on 377.  We boarded the shuttle buses to the high school where we competed in athletics and in band.
 
During our sophomore year came the preparation for construction on our school campus.  It was in our sophomore year that we truly began our high school journey.  We participated in the theater production of Footloose; we played junior varsity and varsity athletics, and we competed in UIL competitions across the state.  And finally, we were able to attend high school pep rallies.
 
Our junior year came and we were all aboard the Pirate Ship, with our Captain, Mr. Ross, navigating us through the blocked hallways for construction, the Thursday power outages, and the broken water lines.  In our junior year we became the leaders on campus.  Taking roles as team captains in athletics, volunteering in the community, and leading our F-1 team to the world championships in Singapore.  It was in our junior year that we began to look and plan for life after high school.  We always knew that high school was going to come to an end and it was then, that we saw some of our older friends beginning to move on.  We took the ASVAB, SAT, and ACT, many, many times.  We took dual credit courses, AP classes, and CTE classes to help prepare us for our future.  I always thought my junior year was my favorite, until this year.
 
Our senior year has been the completion of 12 years of school.  We opened a beautifully renovated high school which has a coffee bar, a rifle range for ROTC, a commercial grade kitchen, an automotive garage, engineering labs, and we are constructing an airplane, which I hear that Dr. Largent will be piloting.  This year we were able to park next to the school, participate in homecoming, have the BEST pep rallies, assist with Grand Scary, Christmas for Children, and Operation School Supplies.  We continued to take advanced classes and took college visits to plan out our future.
 
Do you remember when you were in the 6th grade and your parents told you to take school seriously as it will determine your future.  Well, we are at our future.  Some of us will enter the work force after graduation, some will attend a trade school, and some of us will go to a university.  Our future is NOW.  The work that we have accomplished and the experiences we have made have put us in a place to be successful leaders for our community, our state, and our country.  But no matter where we go we will always be a part of the Pirate Nation.  So be sure to thank your families for supporting you, your teachers for instilling wisdom, your assistant principals for dealing with you, and your friends for always being there for you.  Good luck to each one of you and may God put His protective hands and arms around you. 
 
Celebratory Remarks
Jeremy Ross, Principal
 
Jeremy Ross  
 
I always save the last few words of Graduation for myself.  In the words of Dumbledore, “Being me has its privileges.” 
 
Usually, I try to reflect on the class and their accomplishments.  I try to highlight, appreciate, and inspire.  Tonight, I’m going a different direction with the closing words for this ceremony.
 
Oh I could reminisce about surviving three years of construction.  And boy, did you all survive!  Haunted Thursdays, errant fire alarms, jackhammers, daily hikes to find your car in some far-away lot… You survived!
 
I could talk about your victories, your concerts, your projects and the friendships you made…and broke….and mended.  All of this is practice for real life.  You survived!
 
But tonight, graduates, I’m not going to speak to you. 
 
This message is for your parents and family. 
 
Parents:  I know how you feel.  You have that confusing emotion of indescribable pride at the same time you are hit with waves of sadness that what you swear yesterday was a toddler is today, a young adult ready to tackle the world. As a Dad, I was in this boat with you last year.  In fact, here on this stage, a couple of other dads share your emotions tonight.  Dr. Largent will officially be an empty-nester and Mr. Holmgreen’s first has just crossed this stage! 
 
Parents, you are wondering, “Where did the time go?”
 
The answer is “I don’t know.”  I told your kids every time we gathered that high school passes quickly.  They now know that to be truth.  What they don’t know yet, but they soon will, is that life doesn’t slow down! 
 
I’m not going to promise that the next few months and all of the changes coming will be easy and tear-free, but I do promise, you will survive.
 
Class of 2017, oh you great survivors, be mindful of the time.  Let those hugs linger a little longer than you probably want them to.  Know that we are very proud of you and the legacy of greatness that you leave for future classes of GHS.  We expect great things from you in the future!
 
And now, in our final act of celebration and as a symbol turning the page from this chapter of your life, with your left hand take your tassel and say with me CLASS OF 2017-----GRADUATES 2017!