Embracing a new day

Published 1:16 pm Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Randolph-Henry High School’s Class of 2019 was treated to words of wisdom and encouragement from administration, governing leaders and classmates, with loved ones on hand for the commencement exercises that unfolded Saturday at Central Middle School gymnasium in Charlotte Court House.
Randolph-Henry Principal Dr. Shep Critzer welcomed the large crowd in attendance to support the soon-to-be graduates and then directed his attention to the Class of 2019, calling for a round of applause in its honor before conveying a special message to it.

“You didn’t notice, but you were a special group to me long before you came to Randolph-Henry, long before this year,” he said. “See, I came to Charlotte County the year many of you entered the pre-K program. … Thank you for being one of the many reasons I fell in love with Charlotte County.”
Critzer took several moments to recognize members of the Class of 2019 that have chosen to serve their country in the U.S. Armed Forces after graduation, as well as those who have been volunteer members of area fire departments and rescue squads.

During his remarks, he encouraged the students to be proactive in life.

“We often look at things in the world and think, ‘Somebody needs to do something about that,’” he said. “Well, I’m here to tell you today that you are somebody.”

Jon Berkley, chairman of the Charlotte County School Board, reflected on the beginning and the end that the Class of 2019 was facing — the end of its Charlotte County Public Schools education and the beginning of the next phase of life.

He also encouraged students to never forget where they came from and to be confident in the next step that they take.

“On behalf of the Charlotte County School Board, I would like to congratulate you all and wish the best of luck going forward,” he said. “Make us proud. I have no doubt that you will. God bless each and every one of you.”

Charlotte County Board of Supervisors Chairman Garland Hamlett promised to keep his comments short, which prompted him to recall his time in high school.

“Reflecting back, those years were probably some of the best years of my life,” he said. “I think you’ll find in the future when you reflect back that you’ll say the same thing.”

He concluded his comments by saying, “Life itself is an education. Thank your teachers and thank your family, and again, on behalf of the board of supervisors, congratulations and best of luck in the future.”
Class of 2019 Salutatorian Hannah Goldman drew a parallel between life and long-distance running during her speech.

“Over the last four years as high school students, we have run the first leg of a marathon that brings us to today,” she said. “Instead of reflecting on the first part of our journey, I decided that it would be more valuable to share a few words of advice and encouragement to prepare us for what awaits. Class of 2019, life is a marathon.”

She noted there will be obstacles and difficulties along the way but that it is during these moments that one must remain persistent, keeping their eyes focused on the finish line.

“We must not shrink in the face of adversity,” she said. “We must rise, trample over our obstacles and embrace the challenge. And always remember that our comebacks will always be stronger than our setbacks.”

Noting again that life is a marathon, she highlighted what it is not — a sprint.

“Finally, Class of 2019, as we embark on the next phase of our lives, know that we’ll face obstacles, but we will overcome them,” she said. “In addition, always remember to never let comparison hinder our progress and that we must all go on at our own pace. … Lastly, seek comfort in knowing that we will not be alone. Class of 2019, we have completed the first leg of this journey. But as the late rapper, entrepreneur and philanthropist Nipsey Hussle often said, ‘The marathon continues, and one day we will all have the opportunity to take our victory laps.’”

Before introducing the class valedictorian, Shiloh Turner, Goldman presented a gift to Charlotte County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Nancy Leonard, whose contract expires this summer.

“Dr. Leonard, we didn’t want you to leave without showing you how much your dedication has meant to us throughout these last years,” Goldman said. “Thank you for everything you have done to help us become who we are today. You will always be in our hearts as we change directions in life. The Class of 2019 and the faculty and staff at Randolph-Henry wish you the best of luck in the future.”

In his valedictorian address, Turner emphasized the importance of work in the process of transforming dreams and passions into reality.

“We now have a lot of choices, and a lot of things are going to change,” he said. “Many people are going to tell you common phrases like, ‘The world is at your fingertips,’ or ‘Shoot for the moon, and even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.’ But I always had one problem with these common phrases. Everybody talks about how we should follow our passions, but nobody talks about how hard it is just to follow a passion. People should start saying, ‘If you want something, work for it. It’s that simple.’

“You can’t say, ‘I want to be an astronaut’ and assume that that dream will fall into your hands,” he said before listing some of the things that would be necessary to make it reality, like taking classes, making connections and getting good grades. “So don’t sit around waiting for your dream to fall into your lap. If you want something, you need to work for it. It’s that simple.”

But he did acknowledge that “simple” doesn’t mean easy, and fears may accompany the hardships, but he encouraged his classmates to not let the fear stop them.

He closed his speech by expressing his gratitude to the key figures in his life thus far and the lives of all of his classmates.

“Not all heroes wear capes, and I believe that none of us would be here without the heroes standing in this room,” he said. “So again, I would like to thank the faculty and staff, the administration, our teachers, family, friends, thank you. Thank you so much for being here when we had trouble, and thanks for celebrating with us, like you are today, when we are successful.”

Before the presentation of diplomas Leonard gave a brief final address.

“It has been my distinct pleasure to be the superintendent of this fabulous group of students,” she said.
She noted that truth can be hard to find these days when turning on the television, but she said she has been finding it in insurance commercials and proceeded to cite some classic slogans.
“Life comes at you fast,” she said, acknowledging the truth in this statement, like when the lights went out at the homecoming football game this past year.

See the full article at www.TheCharlotteGazette.com.