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CLASS of 2020: We can all just celebrate and be equal

Staff Writer
Northwest Florida Daily News
Northwest Florida Daily News

Across the Emerald Coast, top high school students are giving speeches in empty auditoriums in front of cameras that will offer up a digital version of this year’s graduation.

The Daily News invited those students selected to speak at their high school graduations to send their speeches for publication. We hope you enjoy a peek at some of the area’s best and brightest students.

CLASS OF 2020: Remember, life does not control you

CLASS of 2020: ‘I don’t mean success as the world defines it’

CLASS of 2020: ‘High school is like toilet paper ... you only miss it when it’s gone’

Josie Mason, Holt

Baker School

Hello everyone. I hope all of you are well.

I’m so thankful for this opportunity to celebrate each and every senior that has worked so hard to get here, even in these crazy times. No offense, but I never thought I would have missed any of you all as much as I do.

Through all of this, I’ve realized that even my introverted, quiet self cannot stand staying home without seeing any of my friends.

I am very happy to see things slowly transition back to life as normal, yet I know this “normal” does not include the rescheduling of our prom, or senior walk through, or senior nights, or senior awards.

I don’t want to focus or spend a lot of time dwelling on what we’re missing out on; however, I do want to touch on a new perspective in which I have seen the situation and would like to share.

Every time it gets brought up in conversation around family, or on social media, or wherever, I hear that each of us—the Class of 2020—have missed out on so much and it’s just so sad, but God has a plan.

I’ve heard that exact response almost every time the topic has come up, which is all the time. I do absolutely agree that God has an intentional and specific plan for everything that goes on; however, what He is showing me through all of this is simply that He is in control—absolute control.

We might think that because all of those senior events were listed on our calendar that we were entitled to have them take place; it is our senior year, our best year of high school, right?

In reality, life is life, and I am learning that it rarely goes as planned, but that’s okay because God is in control.

Don’t get me wrong, I hate it just as much as every other senior that we missed out on so much of our senior year and special senior events, but since we aren’t in control of all of that, we must listen to the One who is.

Another different angle God has shown me to look from specifically, is how cool it is that we can just have graduation without the award show that we would have had. Now, it’s not about who was in the most clubs or sports, or who received the most awards or scholarships, or whose name was called out the most. We can all just celebrate and be equal.

I do recognize that high school has been tough and there has been a significant amount of hard work put forth by every senior here, and that deserves to be awarded, but to me, that hard work is not limited to your “academic and extracurricular excellence.”

To me, the young woman or young man sitting in the back row, that hasn’t necessarily gotten any scholarships and might have chosen not to go to college, but enter directly into the workforce or join the military, they might deserve way more awards than any of the “top scholars” sitting in the front.

We all have masks we put up to hide our secret battles, and just the imperfection and messiness of our lives.

To the seniors fighting anxiety and depression, you deserve an award. To the seniors making that scary decision now that will better your life later, you deserve an award. To the seniors working instead of joining all the school clubs or sports, you deserve an award.

To the seniors taking care of siblings instead of going to that Friday night football game, you deserve an award. To the seniors being that loyal friend instead of talking behind their backs, you deserve an award. To the seniors staying true to yourself instead of following the crowd, you deserve an award, and the list of awards in my book could go on and on.

In saying that, I want to apologize to any of you who thought I made myself look or act better than you in any way. I might be valedictorian, but I’m not “all that and a bag of chips” as my mom would say, and I know that. I know that most of you deserve more recognition than I do, and more of a right to be giving your own speech right now.

I know many of you think that I think of myself as “Little Miss Perfect,” but in truth, it’s actually quite the opposite. I mess up all the time and am very hard on myself. When other people compliment me for being “so smart” or “so good” at weightlifting or softball, I don’t know how to take it because I don’t really see that; I just see where I lack or how good I could be.

Anyways, I just want to be transparent and real with y’all by letting you know that I see each and every one of us as equal.

I also want to take this time to thank my God, my Jesus, my Holy Spirit, for lifting me up every time I fall, for giving me purpose in this life and the life to come, for calling me worthy when I feel unworthy, for giving me my identity, and for simply being there to hold me through this rollercoaster of a life. I would be lost in life without my God.

I would also be lost without my family, as I know the rest of the Class of 2020 would be as well. I speak for all of us when I say thank you to every parent, guardian, aunt, uncle, grandma, grandpa, sister, brother, friend, any special individual that has helped raise one of us seniors.

I would also like to thank all the teachers and coaches for all their endless invested time and mentoring to all of us throughout the years. Thank you. You all are truly amazing, and speaking of awards earlier, everyone I just mentioned most definitely deserves the most, putting up with us and being there for us through both our highs and our lows. Thank y'all.

So after this so serious speech of mine, to the Class of 2020, I hope we take this time to reflect on all of our crazy memories; from the time we stepped foot into our kindergarten class, to when we awkwardly made our way into middle school, to when we began high school thinking we were hot stuff, only to learn we were just ninth graders — the lowest of low— to our first band performance or varsity game, or first homecoming, or first prom, and every moment in between.

I hope we all look back and smile, and that we’re thankful for the time we had and the people that made that time so special. As we end this chapter of our life and nervously enter whatever path we so choose to start the next, I hope each of us stay true to ourselves, and true to our faith, trusting that though we are ultimately not in control of our life and future, we are held by The One who is and His plans are good.

I’ll leave you all with my favorite scripture, Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

And as always, go Gators!

If your student is a top grad who would normally be speaking at graduation, please send a copy of the prepared speech, a headshot, his or her hometown and the name of the school to wvictora@nwfdailynews.com

We are also accepting parent- or student-submitted photos celebrating your graduate if he or she attends school in Okaloosa, Walton or Santa Rosa counties. Send those pictures to ntomecek@nwfdailynews.com.