The words of South Central High School’s salutatorian Braydon Dotson showed the promise of the Trojan Class of 2018.
Of the 61 seniors who graduated Sunday afternoon, 21 also graduated from a technical program, seven with an honors diploma and 21 with accolades as a National Honors Society or National Technical Honor Society member.
Superintendent Ben Chaffee Jr. recognized all of these as “awesome accomplishments.”
Dotson attributed those accomplishments to the parents and family members who helped to raise the students.
“You guys are truly the backbone of all of our success,” he said. “You’ve been there to support us from our first day of school, up until now — our graduation day — and we can’t thank you enough for that. I’m sure my class would agree that we would not be standing here without all of the love and support you have given us.”
Valedictorian Cheyenne Swander agreed, citing the positive effect the teachers and coaches had on each student.
Swander said they taught them the mantra “improvise, adapt and overcome” — something the students could apply to every area of their lives. She said they also showed the students “what the results of determination, dedication and hard work look like,” helping each student to reach his or her own potential.
Swander encouraged her fellow graduates to remember those lessons and, as they reach out for their goals, to remember to take care of themselves along the way.
The valedictorian opened up about her struggle with keeping a “good head space,” noting she had to change her priorities from obsessing over smaller things to taking regard for her own “mental health, self worth and happiness.”
“That kind of thing doesn’t develop overnight, but I strongly encourage each and every one of you in attendance today, at some point, to make the same priority on your mental well being,” she said. “The world is so much brighter when you’re good enough for yourself.”
Those words matched the song chosen to represent the 2018 class, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”
In her closing words, Swander told the students to chase what makes them happy.
“I hope that you all find happiness and continue to pursue that happiness,” she said. “Life is an adventure and I know I can’t wait to continue on in mine.”
One of the graduates, Marisa Martinez, said she was already feeling that happiness as she walked out the doors for the last time.
“I’m so, so excited,” she said. “I love all the memories with everyone. Even people I didn’t get along with, you just love all of it. I think I’ll miss it.”
Before diplomas were presented by principal Thomas Hellickson and the tassels were turned and the caps tossed, Chaffee gave the graduates a few last challenges to consider before traveling “the next leg of your journey.”
The challenges included being “present in the moment” rather than the digital world and choosing “to focus on your best and not ‘the best’” He also encouraged them to “choose to exceed expectations” and “prioritize purpose over passions.”
Chaffee told the graduates to “aspire to be great and pursue your passions, but not at the expense of those around you,” noting that relationships are more important than success.
“My ultimate challenge for you, though, is that you take a moment today to say to yourself, ‘Hey you did it.’”
Following Swander and Dotson, leading the class as the top 5 were Susan Cole, Westin Bradberry and Brooke Gahring.
Of the senior class officers, Dotson also served as the president, while Ben Lamoreaux was vice president, Kaycee Burton secretary, Destani Matheny treasurer and Nathaniel Myers the student council representative. Student council members included president Sarah Obey, vice president Kennedy Risner, secretary Ethan Parlett, treasurer Samantha Jayes and at large representatives Collin Lloyd and Madison Albert.
The high school concert band performed before and after the commencement, including the “Pomp and Circumstance,” while the high school choir sang Martina McBride’s “Anyway.”