Free State Class of 2018 told to embrace goodness to achieve success
photo by: Mike Yoder
Free State High School’s Class of 2018 heard the traditional commencement encouragements to embrace the future and their passions, but in order to do that, their peers and district leaders reminded them, it would take character.
Interim Superintendent Anna Stubblefield introduced the theme with her comments to the 311 graduating Free State seniors at the commencement ceremony Tuesday evening at the Firebirds football stadium. She noted that, like her, the students were in transition. She would give up the district superintendent role on July 1, while the students would enter into the adult world of making their own decisions on such basic things as what time to wake up in the morning. Stubblefield offered advice on how the graduates should approach life’s challenges and urged them to keep learning no matter what academic path they chose to follow in the future.
“Be kind, make good choices and ask questions,” she said.
Lawrence school board President Shannon Kimball told the graduates that they’d been given a solid foundation for success — from their families, the school district and the community. And although Kimball said she would have defined success as making a “big splash” when she was a high school senior, Kimball shared that she now defines success as being kind, generous and empathetic to others, even if it’s mostly through small, everyday acts.
“In these times when there doesn’t seem (to be) enough good to go around, when a lack of empathy is endemic and hate and bitterness and divisiveness are a common part of the discourse of our public life, the acts of giving and love and empathy toward others matter, no matter how small,” Kimball said. “Make the most of the time you are given from this day going forward by vowing to do good each day for someone, somewhere.”
Charles Bermel, one of two valedictorians selected to address the class, said the Class of 2018 had already learned a lot about empathizing with others at Free State. More than his peers’ considerable academic, artistic and athletic accomplishments, he said kindness and goodness would be the Class of 2018’s legacy.
“I could have spent five minutes up here talking about our sports victories, our perfect ACT scores and how we were equipped to take the world by storm, but instead I want to focus on something I am much more proud of,” said Bermel, who will enroll in the United States Air Force Academy next fall. “This group of seniors learned something more valuable than all the facts and all the knowledge. This group of seniors learned that before we could become great people, we had to become good people. I urge you Class of 2018, don’t forget to be good in pursuit of being great.”
Ethan Perrins, the second senior speaker, told his peers he was proud to be part of the post-millennial “I Generation.” He quoted Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and said that just like the “I” in the names of many of that company’s products, including the iPad and iPhone, the “I” in his generation’s name could stand for “individual,” “integrity,” “informed” and “inspired.”
Those were traits he and his peers would need to make their mark on the world, Perrins said.
“Step forward with purpose,” Perrins said. “Step forward with courage, with kindness. Step forward with enthusiasm, with swagger. Step forward with integrity and compassion.”
Near the end of the commencement, Free State Principal Myron Graber acknowledged those students in Free State’s 21st graduating class receiving class honors, including its 24 valedictorians. In addition to Bermel and Perrins, the valedictorians were Abdullah Alkiswani, Anton Barybin, Eli Börk, Heather Buckingham, Claire Campbell, Ava Cormaney, Erin Cushing, Emma Dixon, Jared Hicks, Harrison Hughes, Madelyn Johnson, Benjamin Katz, Malia Kema, Jared Lieberman, Carly Oliver, Emma Perez, Janet Stefanov, Christopher Theisen, Thomas White, Cameron Wood, Lydia Zicker and Margaret Ziegler.