Hello, fellow class of 2020 graduates, family, and friends!

It is an honor and privilege to be speaking to you all on one of the most important days of our high school careers and even though I didn’t grow up with you all I feel blessed to have gotten to know a good majority of you.

I hope you will listen to what I have to say and that you will take something from my speech.... This unprecedented season has brought its challenges for everyone and although this is not the graduation ceremony we anticipated, I still believe it has the opportunity to impact us and send us off in a meaningful way. I know we are all adapting and becoming stronger through this. Everything is all new to us, but we are still thriving through these circumstances.

Just like these new challenges, graduating is a major step in the journey of our lives. With that being said, it should be recognized for its great significance. This is our day to celebrate all that we have accomplished. We all worked hard to get to this day to receive something that will open new doors: A high school diploma. Whether you are going onto higher education or not, do not take this achievement for granted.

It has been a lot more challenging to be a teenager than I ever imagined, but the obstacles don’t stop here. We are going to be faced with all sorts of hills and valleys as we continue our education, pursue careers, start families, and embark on the journey of the rest of our lives. Just remember, it is okay to not have everything figured out, trust me, no one does. We have so much ahead of us. So many opportunities are going to present themselves in our lives. I pray that you take the ones that will lead you to happiness and fulfillment.

Life is made of moments. Looking back, our high school days were filled with moments. Maybe more of them than we’d want to be were filled with stressful tests and deadlines, but for the majority, they were filled with just about every emotion you could possibly imagine. Don’t discount a single one of those emotions because they helped you grow as an individual.

I believe the things we go through make us stronger because they give us experience. For me, I have always struggled with being anxious about things. I get overwhelmed and stressed pretty easily. Even though it is not fun to go through something like that, it has motivated me to always get things done and to put in all of my efforts. I am constantly learning to remind myself that even though I do not have control of things I know who does.

My biggest hopes are that you leave here with the goal to change your environment for the better and that you love everyone you encounter. If anything, leave an imprint of positivity and kindness wherever you go. But you need to understand that you will never influence the world by trying to be like it. You have to be different from the world in order to influence it.

It matters how you’ve touched the people around you. Like the poet, Rupi Kaur wrote, “People go but how they left always stays.” You will be judged and people will try to put you down, but if you can change at least one life by doing so, why not go for it? Why not bring hope to someone’s life? It only takes a few seconds to impact someone. It can be as simple as a compliment or as complex as a deep conversation. Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture, you can change a person’s life. It is your choice whether your impact is good or bad. I hope you will always choose good.

Lastly, I would like to thank everyone that helped me get here and impacted me for the better. Thank you to my teachers that were always willing to help me. Thank you to the coaches that pushed me to be a better athlete and teammate. Thank you to the pastors and youth leaders that encouraged me in my faith. Thank you to the lifelong friends that were always there for me and gave me some of the sweetest high school memories. Thank you to my parents for always believing in my abilities and inspiring me to always give it my best because you can’t succeed at everything, but you can always try. I give the most thanks to God for all these blessings in my life. I owe it all to God because every day is a gift from Him. I am so excited for the opportunities and adventures that are coming our way. Keep up the good work everyone.

Editor’s note: This story has been edited for print because of space constraints. View the entire speech at payson.com Cheers to the quarantined class of 2020!

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