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Valedictorian, salutatorian graduation speakers choose superhero theme
WAYNESVILLE, Mo. (May 22, 2010) — Practice in Waynesville for many years has been to have multiple valedictorians and salutatorians rather than honoring a single top student and second student. Eleven valedictorians this year — the highest-ranking seniors at Waynesville who all received the highest grade point averages in excess of 4.0 and the maximum number of quality points — spoke to the graduating class, along with the two salutatorians whose GPAs were separated from the valedictorians by only a 0.02 margin in their GPAs.

The honorees this year chose a common “superhero” theme for their speeches.

Co-Valedictorian Timothy Williams of Waynesville noted that some family members and friends of the graduates had to come great distances to the graduation ceremony, while “others had to drive only five minutes.”

“Whatever the distance, we are all here to honor the accomplishments of these students,” Williams said.

Williams noted that the path to success was not easy.

“Like Superman, we all had our ‘kryptonite’ that hindered us at times,” Williams said, citing procrastination, vices, and lack of confidence.

“You have persevered through many struggles, from dealing with hectic lives to the death of a fellow classmate,” Williams said. “Our unity and willpower provided us with the drive to succeed.”

Co-Valedictorian Zach Kahl of St. Robert said he’s a “kryptonite” victim, calling himself “one of the worst procrastinators you will ever meet” and admitting to not even writing his valedictorian speech until the morning it was due.

“I’m not alone in this, though, because I know all of you suffered from the same thing in one way or another,” Kahl said.

Kahl cautioned that final exams or term papers in high school are easier than the challenges that will be faced in adult life.

“Eventually life will present us with harder, more serious tasks which we can’t afford to procrastinate on,” Kahl said, citing college papers, house mortgage loan payments and marriage.

“The challenge is to overcome procrastination now to avoid playing catch-up the rest of our lives,” Kahl said. “Superheroes wouldn’t say, ‘Wait a little while, I’ll save you later,’ and so we can’t do that either.”

Co-Valedictorian Nelson Shreve of Waynesville said students must struggle against other vices as well.

“Everyone has vices, even though we all do, we eventually pull ourselves through to get to this point,” said Shreve, citing a superhero who was a drunkard but gradually altered his personality to become successful and conquering alcoholism.

“Many of us have had the dilemma of watching our favorite show or completing an assignment,” Shreve said. “The choice seems obvious now, but at the time the decision we could hardly see past.”

Realistic assessment of one’s strengths is crucial, said Co-Valedictorian Kaleb Bassett of St. Robert.

“We all have wished we had the power to run around the world and speed up time,” Bassett said. “Whether we are running from an evil villain or an English test we had not studied for, we all have had the fear of not being able to accomplish the task ahead of us. Although we may not have the strength of Superman, or the wealth of Batman or even the intelligence of Ironman, we have all had the confidence to tempt the fates right here before us.”

Mutant spiders, power rings, magical lassos and high-tech utility belts may be only fiction, but Bassett said Waynesville High School has provided the tools to “battle the evildoers of this world.”

“Although we may be going away from this small town into the big world, we can always count on our inner Spiderman to save the day,” Bassett said.

Co-Valedictorian Kristy Alexandra Little of Waynesville noted the dual personality of Peter Parker, the fictional newspaper photographer who becomes Spiderman and “jumps in to save the day” when there’s a cry for help.

“As seniors, we can all relate to this situation of changing from one persona to the next,” Little said. “During the day, we are students attending school, but as soon as the bell rings, we all have our own version of springing into action and saving the day. We all have our alter-ego outside of our academic lives.”

Those “alter-egos” may not be as dramatic as comic book figures like Clark Kent, Peter Parker or Bruce Wayne, but Little said being a brother or sister, artist, or employee requires learning to “balance our lives.”

While balance is important, focusing on areas in which people excel is also important, said Co-Valedictorian Julia Maria Janda of Waynesville.

“Although balance is ideal, everyone prefers a certain subject or activity. Everyone has a unique superpower,” Janda said. “Even though Superman can run fast, he still prefers to fly over taking the ground and running. Some of us may enjoy our math over language arts, history of science, books over sports, or choir over theater.”

Janda noted that abilities shift with time and must be developed.

“Our individual superhero strengths will allow each of us to impact the world,” Janda said.

Co-Valedictorian Yannik Roell of Waynesville said it’s important to recognize the need to seek help from others.

“Regardless of our high school experience, we all have to admit we could not have been successful over the past four years without our parents, teachers, partners in crime, sidekicks and our own wonder twin,” Roell said.

Those helps include adult mentors and peers, Roell said.

“Look around you, Class of 2010. Within this crowd of superheroes, you know who your ‘wonder twin’ is,” Roell said. “Everyone has had guidance on the bumpy path.”

A good team is much like the “Justice League” of comic books, said Co-Salutatorian Jonathan Paul Anderson of Waynesville.

“What else is our class but one great alliance full of individual superheroes? By ourselves we cannot accomplish projects and goals, but together we are powerful,” Anderson said. “Though our time to combine forces is done, it is not the end of Waynesville High School’s Class of 2010.”

Schools in military communities are always transient as students come and go when their parents move from one duty station to another, and Co-Salutatorian Devin Wright of Fort Leonard Wood noted that not all people in the Waynesville Class of 2010 had been in the school for all four years of high school.

“Whether you have been with our ‘Justice League’ for two weeks or all four years, we all form something greater than ourselves,” Wright said. “Together we form a group of future workers, college students, parents, and most importantly, superheroes. Even though our high school powers are almost used up, we still have plenty of power for the future.”

“We have forged bonds through late-night cramming and pep rallies,” said Co-Valedictorian Jenna Wong of Waynesville. “Some of us will fly to college, some to careers, and some will even fly back home, but no matter where we go, we will all be flying alone for the first time and we will all react differently.”

Wong noted that some will fly higher and others lower, but all must develop their own independent lives.

“While flying alone is a horrifying thought at first, we can find comfort knowing that our ‘Justice League’ is just a phone call away, ready to provide support and encouragement as we fly into our futures,” said Wong.

“It may seem that every superhero leads a perfect life, but with every superpower comes responsibility and with our responsibilities come hardships,” said Co-Valedictorian Sarah Rutledge of Waynesville. “We all know that these things will come… the only thing we can do is continue to prepare for what is to come.”

Setbacks may include losing a job, saying goodbye to a future spouse, leaving to fight in the military or moving away from a cherished home.

“It is hard to say what Green Goblins, Venoms, Jokers, or Magnetos will try to stand in our way and attempt to keep us from flying, because we aren’t there yet. What we can do is prepare for what is to come and what future villains will stand in our way,” Rutledge said.

Co-Valedictorian Elizabeth Salley of St. Robert said everyone has a “power ring,” citing the example of Green Lantern.

“It can accomplish pretty much anything the ring bearer sets his or her mind to, including flight, but before the ring can work its magic, there’s a catch: Its power is determined by the will of the ring bearer,” Salley said.

“Let’s not forget the true villains we encountered, the Dr. Dooms and Lex Luthers to all high school students: the ACT and SAT, and applications for jobs, colleges and scholarships,” Salley said. “Now that it is our time to fly, we are sure to be thankful that we have taken the time and preparation to enhance its infinite power.”

“We recognized our weaknesses and have strived to eliminate them,” said Co-Valedictorian Erin Malone of Waynesville.

“We’ve made friendships to last a lifetime and no matter how far apart we may be, we’ll always share an unbreakable bond with our Justice League,” Malone said. “We will never forget the things we have learned and we are eternally grateful for those who have impacted our lives so far.”

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