West graduates enter new highway in life

Published 3:28 pm Sunday, May 26, 2024

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Having raked in more than $3.5 million in scholarships, one might think it was all unicorns and puppies for the West Stanly High School Class of 2024.

But as speakers at Friday’s graduation ceremony noted, overcoming obstacles is often a key to success.

Lydia Hill welcomed fellow graduates and guests, saying she was overwhelmed by memories and emotions.

“I remember as a freshman hearing the question,” Hill said, “ ‘What college are going to?’ or ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ … Why do these adults expect me to know what I want to do at 15 years old?”

She looked back at obstacles of the last four years, including of “our good friend COVID-19” and spending two years trying to learn behind a computer and a mask, all while trying to become an adult.

“Though we may have had a rough start to high school, we can still cherish the times we spent at home with family,” she said. “I can guarantee that anything detrimental that happened, happened for a reason.”

While looking back at the last four years, she urged graduates to “not focus on the bumps in the road, but on how we will pave the way for a brighter future.”

“Finding your path is not supposed to be like a nice straightforward highway,” she said. “In fact, life is much more like driving around Stanly County. There will be bumps in the road like the many potholes that will never be filled in. There will be times when we have to slow down and find patience, like when you’re following behind somebody’s precious grandparents who can barely see over the steering wheel.

“There will even be times where we have to slam on the brakes, because a deer jumped at us out of nowhere, similar to when something bizarre happens and you have to put the rest of your world on hold.”

She called on graduates to “make your drive your own, because, after all, you do only live once.”

“If you choose to take it slow and cruise with the windows down, by all means, that’s what you should do,” she said. “If you want to take the risk and go a little too fast down these country back roads, just please be safe and have fun. Personally, I model my drive after ‘Ricky Bobby,’ because if you’re not first, you’re last.

“Though they will all be different, at the end of the drive we will all find ourselves safe at our final destinations.”

She urged graduates to not just dream about the future, but to steer where they want to go and concluded by asking: “How will you steer your way through life after today?”

Sophomore English teacher Thomas La Bianca gave graduates four points to consider.

He told them “it’s OK to not have everything figured out right now.”

“I’m 30 and I barely have things figured out,” he said. “Some things will take time and patience.”

He asked them to embrace failure.

“We live in a society where people are absolutely terrified of failure,” he said. “I don’t think failure should be feared, but rather something that’s embraced.”

As he put it, failure means someone is trying, learning and growing.

La Bianca called for graduates to invest in relationships.

“Research shows that healthy relationships lead to better emotional health, a greater sense of purpose and even a longer life,” he said.

His final point was that learning does not end with graduation. He urged graduates to keep learning new skills.

Editor’s Note: More information on graduates will be published in a special edition in June.