Lee’s Summit’s three high schools, along with others in the area, have recently celebrated sending their graduates out in the world to continue their education, work, volunteer — and take that first step into adulthood.
On May 12, 15 and 16 the schools held their graduation ceremonies at the Community of Christ Auditorium in Independence. The district had 1,428 graduates who won many honors, including a total of $28 million in scholarships.
On the students minds were the years behind them and the tempestuous world they’re entering, where they’ll assume more responsibility and hopefully make a postive mark on the world.
Here are the remarks of valedictorians from Lee’s Summit High School, Lee’s Summit North High School and two of the speakers at graduation for Lee’s Summit West High School, which held auditions for that honor.
Indea Cousin, Lee’s Summit West High School
Our past four years have been exciting. We’ve made priceless memories in and outside of Lee’s Summit West, probably because of the opportunities this school has afforded us.
When we rolled out of bed every morning, when we dragged ourselves to first hour, while we figured out ways to balance our daily curriculum and our Tetris careers on our new Chromebooks, we were doing so at a Blue Ribbon institution. A top 10 school in the state, one with a gold star. And these awards don’t include the numerous honors our student athletes and artists have brought our Titan family in that same time span.
So what does that mean, for us, graduating today? Well, our high school diploma comes with an asterisk of responsibility.
As the Lee’s Summit West Class of 2017, we’ve had the privilege of thriving in a world that seems like it’s struggling. That’s why, when our world economies teetered from scary to even scarier, Lauren Dismond and Shayla Smith in DECA won tons of awards, reminding us of our business-minded future. In a government that generated constant attention, it was Liz Endecott and Jakob Benedetti who ran our Youth in Government in a way that gave us hope for future. And no, Kansas City might not have a basketball team, but Elijah Childs and Hayden Diebold showed us that they might be proud to fix that one day.
And to capture all of these accomplishments, Annie Thomas worked with Lauren Roberts and Katie Britton-Mehlisch to teach us first hand about the art of journalism.
This is exactly where our asterisk comes into play. Our responsibility, given these opportunities, is to continue proving ourselves useful in a world that needs us. And I’ll highlight that “continue,” because we have clearly proven ourselves capable in the past four years.
For example, in 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced we would need 1 million more young people to pursue science and technology in the next decade to sustain our global influence; that spring, our Team Titanium students won the Chairperson’s Award, proving their dominance in those fields. Last year the United Nations showed 795 million people suffering from a lack of food, and our UNICEF club worked tirelessly to donate to improve that statistic. And across the world, 80 percent of music and art budgets were cut from schools; so we appreciated Sarah Davis working so hard to win the LS Art Fair last year.
The planet needs bright young minds to deal with problems that we really had no hand in creating. And that’s OK, because as we’ve established, we’re certainly up to the challenge. I believe in us, our parents believe in us, and our teachers believe in us, too. When we leave this room, we must expand our knowledge, our passions, and interests to handle a world that needs us. We can, should and will help. So let’s get excited to make our lives and the lives of others better. Let’s leap toward the future. Our graduating class accepts our asterisk of responsibility and welcomes the challenge of being the new beacon of hope that this community, city and world needs.
Lexy Covinsky, Lee’s Summit West
“Do you need a hug?”
Who knew that the simple question would alter my entire high school experience. I certainly didn’t — in these moments, as fleeting as they are, it’s hard to discern which ones will linger after they’ve passed.
I remember lots of moments from the past four years, but none stands out quite as brilliantly as this one.
When I marvel at the moment now, I analyze it from all angles. I open up its mouth and inspect all its teeth. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve changed the moment without permission. But then I know that what happened was a glimpse into the kindness of a stranger, and what an exchanged look can translate. I experienced a moment that I will continue to carry with me forever.
I was having a hard day and I felt like I was wearing my sadness like a heavy winter coat.
My current class had finished a lesson and we were waiting for the bell to signal our release. I excused myself to the bathroom, slowly unfolding my arms out of my winter coat as I walked into the empty hallway.
I rounded into the bathroom, and was met by another girl. She was bowed over the sink, fingers clenching the edges, her tear streaked eyes widening as she realized my arrival.
A flash of panic surged through me. No one wanted to be stumbled upon when they were crying, especially if the tears were warranted to spill at school.
She immediately looked away. I immediately acted like nothing had happened, like I didn’t recognize that she was carrying her own sadness, draped over the next sink beside a precarious tower of paper towels.
I was halfway through the stall door when I turned hesitantly.
She was staring in the mirror, her gaze flicking to meet mine.
I stepped out of the stall, and I asked her, “Do you need a hug?”
My brain was alarmed that the words had actually come out of my mouth. You couldn’t just ask a stranger in the bathroom for a hug. That’s just plain weird.
But it wasn’t weird enough for her to reject the idea, because she wrapped her arms around me and changed my perception of kindness forever.
When I had finished and I thrust my hands under the faucet, I thought about our interaction. She had left already, disposing of her mascara stained paper towels, leaving the bathroom the way it was before either of us had entered.
I never knew her name. Or how old she was. I didn’t know why she was crying and I didn’t know if things got better for her.
I wish I could. I wish I could ask her if she shed her winter coat similarly after that moment, and if she still remembers it like I remember it.
We come so close to so many people, some in unexpected ways, people we don’t even know the first things about. I never would’ve guessed that my life would be impacted in the bathroom in the basement of Lee’s Summit West High School.
That moment made me realize that you don’t have to know someone to extend an act of kindness. We went to the same school and both ended up in that bathroom, both of us not searching for someone to see our sadness, but finding someone regardless.
I like to think that we all possess moments like that. Small moments of compassion that we hold in our pockets, polished like a stone.
We’ve all attended West for so long and now that we’re leaving, I hope that we all have a moment to bring with us into the next page of our life. Surely, among the glinting helmets and breathless rehearsals, we have all selected a moment to move forward past the hurricane of change that’s about to occur.
After this, after today, after we realize that we have survived high school — we will at least always carry with us the memory of being a Titan.
Paige Maxwell, valedictorian Lee’s Summit High School
Three years ago I sat out where most of you sit today and watched my sister walk across this stage. In the back of my little freshman mind, I recognized that I would be in her spot one day but did not think much of it. After all, I was only a freshman and senior year was so far away. And now here my peers and I are before you: seniors but only for a short time longer. Soon we will all be freshmen again, no matter where our path after high school starts. Some of us at colleges hours away from home, some entering service in a branch of the military, and others beginning jobs in the workforce to start a career. And just like any freshmen entering high school, we will probably be a bit nervous for what’s to come.
But, those freshmen we were four years ago? We’re all here today in our caps and gowns, older, wiser and more experienced than we were in 2013.
Each and every one of us is here for a reason: Through all the drama, tests, tears and stress, all the early mornings and late nights, every time we weren’t sure whether we would get that assignment in on time (and those few times we didn’t), we’ve made it through it all.
And even though we may not like to admit it sometimes, we learned a ton: about ourselves, about friendship, about procrastination, perseverance, and about life in general. But, despite what some of us may think, we don’t know it all yet. We may be older, wiser and more experienced than we were four years ago, but we have so much life yet to experience and so much more to learn.
Now, in a speech like this you may be expecting some advice or profound words of wisdom to send you off with for the future, but I’m gonna be honest with you: I don’t know what the future holds so who am I to tell you what to do? I will, however, share some hopes I have for all of us as well as a couple of things some of those even older and wiser have shared with me.
First, I hope each of us will take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way. Being a freshman means having the opportunity to try new things and make new friends. As we have seen all too well in our time in high school, life is short, so make the most of each and every day.
Second, I hope you each find something that makes you happy and invest your time in pursuing it. Whether that be a job, a hobby, or spending time with people you love. The world is full of good and bad, but happiness is a choice so choose to do things that will make you happy.
Third, a very wise person once said “Nobody’s perfect.”
I know we all have an idea in our head of how we want things to turn out, whether it be our futures, a certain event, or even a conversation. But life isn’t perfect and nobody expects you to be. Accept the fact that everybody makes mistakes, and everybody has those days. I’m sure everybody knows what I’m talking about, right? But part of being a freshman is learning from the good and the bad and using those experiences to become successful, no matter how you define success.
These are just a few things I think are important and that I have learned from others during my time in high school. While it’s been great, the time has come for us to leave our school, our city, and our homes and go out on our own. So, as we leave this auditorium in a few short minutes, official graduates of LSHS, cherish the time you spent here in high school, but embrace your future and enjoy being a freshman all over again!
Stacey Edmonson, valedictorian Lee’s Summit North High School
We, the Class of 2017, have finally crossed the finish line. Some of us walked across it proud and tall, some of us crawled, and, thanks to an epidemic of early onset senioritis, some of us had to be dragged those last few feet — our parents and teachers know what I’m talking about. But we all ended up in the same place, and that’s what we’ve gathered to celebrate tonight.
First off, I’d like to say that I’m truly honored to give this speech, almost as much as I am underqualified to give it. Those of you who know me best realize that GPA really isn’t everything, and you might’ve been better off with someone who excelled in theater or speech and debate. Instead, you got the class mathlete. Regardless of my qualifications, when I sat down to begin writing this speech I knew I wanted to say something meaningful; to impart some piece of wisdom which each of us can reflect on as we begin the next chapter in our lives.
Fortunately it’s the thought that counts, because I found this task to be much more difficult than I originally anticipated. So I’d like to apologize in advance for the inevitable use of cliches, for giving you vague advice without any instructions on how to use it, and for attempting to incorporate jokes that aren’t as funny out loud as they were in my head, but that you’ll hopefully feel obligated to laugh at anyway.
Today, 13 years of waiting comes to an end; it’s been 1,367 days since we started high school, about 5,000 days since we started kindergarten, and they all felt like Mondays.
Today, we take the first step in exchanging our comfort zones for vast campuses, new jobs, unfamiliar faces and unforgiving realities. Today, we leave the community we’ve spent our lives creating behind, and we begin carving out new identities.
Today, each of us starts another marathon. But this time, we’re running on a blind curve. After 13 years of working toward the same common, predetermined goal, we no longer know what the future holds. Some of us don’t even know what we want it to hold, and that’s OK: realistically, I don’t think we should be expected to decide what we want to do for the rest of our lives when, until yesterday afternoon, we couldn’t use the restroom without asking permission. But that’s the reality of freedom. From now on, we choose our own finish lines, but we only have ourselves to hold accountable for crossing them.
As we prepare to shape our own futures, and collectively influence the future of the world, I’d like to share a few of my hopes for the Class of 2017.
I hope we never regard the last four years as the best of our lives. Maybe I’ve just spent too much time studying, but I want my future to outshine my past. Deciding that we’ve already experienced our glory years before we’ve really begun living would be a disservice — not only to ourselves, but to the world.
I hope we’ll finally learn to stop procrastinating. I don’t know about all of you, but I definitely plan to work on this one ...... Maybe next week.
I hope we live our lives in such a way that, in 50 years, we won’t be haunted by “what ifs.” I hope we remember that we’ll always regret the things we didn’t do more than the ones we did.
I hope we’ll cherish the memories and relationships we’ve made with one another.
I hope that, against all odds, we’ll remember — and maybe even use, not to push my luck — at least some of the things we’ve learned over the last four years.
Finally, I hope we fail. I hope we fail over and over again, because, in my experience, success is boring.
I hope we fail to meet our own expectations. I hope our lives will be unlike anything we could have imaged as 18-year-olds in 10 or 20 years. I hope we fail to stick to the plan. I hope we instead choose to take change as it comes. I hope we take that class, go on that trip, meet that person, get that job, that changes everything. And I hope that, after failing, each of us feels immensely successful.
I’ve talked a lot about the future, because that’s what graduation is supposed to be about. But I think it would do each of us a lot of good to remember the words of Ernest Hemingway: “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
I’m proud to be a part of Lee’s Summit North’s Class of 2017, and I can’t imagine a better group of individuals to have spent the last four years of my journey with.