Perryville High School bid farewell to the 153 members of the Class of 2021 during commencement ceremonies held May 21 at Perry Park Center.
Below are the text of the speeches given by Addie Brewer, president of the Student Council; Jack Rehagen, senior class president; Sam Bachmann, speaker elected by students; Bryce Stewart, speaker elected by faculty; and Mr. Hunter Hendricks, the 2021 commencement speaker.
Welcome by Addie Brewer
Good evening class of 2021, family, friends, and staff. My name is Addie Brewer. I am the student council president and I would like to start off by saying thank you to all of the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, older siblings, and anyone else who has helped you get to where you are today. We could not have done any of this without your love and support for us. You prepared us for this day, and you have done an amazing job of doing so. Without you by our sides, we would not be ready for our next step in life. That being said I would also like to thank all of the principals, teachers, and staff that have pushed us along the way. You were our cheerleaders and support system away from home. You made school better and more enjoyable. Whether that was Mr. Johnson playing the “it's Friday" song every single Friday, or just a simple conversation one of you had with us about our weekend. The little things mattered to us all. Now for my classmates, many people say that today is the day our journey starts, but I don't agree with that. Our journey started a long time ago. Today is just the day our journey separates into 180 different paths. Up to today, we have been one team. We have laughed together, cried together, supported each other, been mad together, geez, we have even fought a pandemic together, and I think that is what I will always remember about our class. No matter the circumstances, we never gave up and we stood by one another. Even if our petitions did get turned down, it's always the thought that counts. This pandemic might've taken a toll on some of us, but it also changed us for the better. I hope you all take that fight in you onto each and every one of your paths. Thank you, Class of 2021. Thank you for all of the memories. As Winnie the Pooh said, "How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."
Welcome by Jack Rehagen
Hello Students and Family. My name is Jack Rehagen, Senior Class President, and it is my honor to welcome everyone to the graduation ceremony of the Class of 2021. Let's be honest none of us expected our senior year to look anything like this, but all of us sitting here just goes to show the resilience of this class.
That is what I think we will be remembered for the most, and I wouldn't have wanted to experience this first chapter of life with anyone else. Of course we couldn't have done it by ourselves and tonight, all of us should turn to our loved ones or anyone who helped us along the way, and thank them, even if some of them couldn't be here tonight. If there is anything that I have learned about these people it is that not only will we all go on to do great things, but be great people as well. Well, I'm sure you all are as ready as I am, so let's get this show on the road. Again, a big congratulations to all our graduates tonight. Thank you.
Address by Sam Bachmann
When I was asking my classmates for their votes for me to speak today, Clay Bergman said to me “Sam, I want you to speak because you won't give the same old graduation speech you hear every year.” And Clay was right, I don't want to give the same speech that's been rehashed time and time again. I want to take a different approach. With that being said, here goes nothing.
My fellow graduates, High School is over. We are adults now. It is your time to grow up, time to accept responsibility, and take your lives into your own hands. Yes, the real world is daunting, change is scary, but we must face our fears and go out and live our lives. I'm sure that you don't wanna hear that, but you have to accept it even if it's scary. I'm telling you this now because this is a very important time in our lives. Now is the time that we make a decision. We can choose to mope and whine about high school being over, or we can choose to take life by the horns and make something of ourselves. Now is a time of great opportunity, whether it's the opportunity to pursue greater education, or to start a career right outside of high school. I'd like to quote country music artist Tracy Lawrence: “Time Marches On.” We will never be young again, every day we are getting older as time lurches forward.
That is scary, I know I'm scared of it, we cannot stop the passage of time, but we can harness it, we can take advantage of it. I encourage you to invest. Not just invest money, but invest time into the things you love, invest into the relationships you care about. Life is too short to do anything half-heartedly. Now is time to plant the seeds in the garden of life, and wait for them to grow so you can reap the harvest. Now I don't want you in the audience to think that I am looking down on you, or that I think that you need these words of encouragement to do great things. I know what the ladies and gentlemen in the class of 2021 are capable of. If you guys get the motivation, you can do anything.
I might sound all high and mighty standing up here, but believe me when I say that I respect every one of you, and I'm proud of this class. I've always admired how high school kids can adapt to things. We lived through a whole pandemic and it didn't seem to phase a whole lot of people, we just kept doing our thing. You guys are capable of great things, we must remember how we are the future of this country. Don't take that lightly. I'm tired of listening to people our age complain about how the system is broken, and how they think things could be better. Well now is your chance to change that. Now is your chance to go be the change you want to see. Now is your time to go out into the world and make a difference.
I'll leave you with a quote from J.R.R. Tolkien, yeah I might have grown out of my nerd phase, but it's still in there somewhere. I hope you take some inspiration from what I've told you, so here's the quote. “Home is behind you, the world is ahead!”
Address by Bryce Stewart
Good evening. I would like to thank the students and staff for voting me to give this speech. Although I am very honored to give this speech, it was significantly harder to write than I had expected. Like most of my other assignments through high school, I procrastinated to the fullest extent. After Mrs. Pfaff in the office gave me plenty of ideas of ways to include her, and brainstorming ideas with the office staff during my intern hour, I think I am ready to deliver this speech.
Senior year at PHS has been a rollercoaster and really, a lot of it has reminded me of our preschool days. We spent many days on edge wondering if we would even be able to go to school the next day. We spent 170 days as seniors at PHS. Many of those days weren't spent on campus. Kind of like our half-days in preschool. Bathroom breaks used to take a while because we struggled with buttons or belts, now they're long, of course, to watch Netflix instead of going to class. In both cases, we had to make new friends and make new games to play. Just like when we were little, when one person got sick we all got sick. We went from sharing our toys to sharing the WiFi. But just like preschool, high school has prepared us for the life ahead and the start of something new.
Preschool set us up for our education to learn how the world works. We learned the ins and outs of everyday life for our future. This is essentially what high school did for us. High school was never about y=mx+b, but about the concepts and knowing what to do with the knowledge we developed. As we moved through high school, we learned how our actions can impact our futures.
Now, as we graduate high school, we are going out into the world that the last thirteen years of school have prepared us for. New starts lead us into new things. Much like preschool, it is full of excitement and uncertainty, learning and wondering, friends and memories. We don't know what lies ahead of us in our future, but we are excited about the endless possibilities. Anything is possible with the knowledge we have gained over the last thirteen years, and there is no limit to what we may learn in the future.
Much like preschoolers, we will nervously walk up, get our diploma, smile for our moms, and continue on with our lives. But this diploma is much more than that. This is our ticket to the next rollercoaster ride to our future. Class, congratulations on making it this far, and good luck to whatever the future holds. Thank you.
Commencement address by Mr. Hunter Hendricks
If I didn't know any better, I would suspect that I am standing here tonight because some of you relished the idea of mentally grading me on a scale of forty possible points for this presentation...so I suppose this had better be good. Let's begin.
One of the most valuable lessons I try to impart upon my Speech students every year is that too often, we as humans listen to respond, not to understand. As we interact, our focus drifts toward what we will say next to advance the conversation as opposed to what the person speaking needs us to hear. This, I believe, is a strong summation of why I cannot in good conscience deliver unto you the traditional words of wisdom that you may have expected to hear tonight.
Generalized advice based on potential career paths would be an unjust way for me to uphold this elected position; after all, that would effectively be “listening to respond” – you say where you're going, and I tell you what to do when you get there. Instead, I've continuously listened to you, the class of two-thousand and twenty-one, for some time now, and with that in mind, I'd like to reflect on the characteristics you've exhibited and what I've come to know and appreciate about you all.
First, you dream, and you dream big. Your aspirations are lofty and rife with potential, as they should be, and for you, the next dream is just one success away from beginning. However, you also know what it means to differentiate between having a "dream job" and having real, true dreams for your future beyond where you spend your time working. Remember: we do not dream of labor. Instead, we dream of the end result of that labor, no matter what that means for you specifically -- and yes, it is different for everyone, so never let anyone make you feel as though you haven't achieved something because your accomplishments don't look the same as theirs.
Next, you try, and you try hard. You understand that failure is not the end; rather, it provides the means to the end, because from failure comes knowledge, and that knowledge combines with renewed effort to try once more until you succeed. As Mister Shafer is fond of saying, "It may not be easy, but it will be worth it." This is the distilled essence of trying and highlights why it is such an important attribute for you to nurture and develop even further. To try is to experience, and experiencing life is the only way to truly live.
Finally, you do good things - in your school, your community, and everywhere in-between. Over the past three years, I have seen some truly remarkable examples of the lengths to which you are all willing to go in order to help others in even the most mundane of ways. If you take nothing else away from what I have to say, make it this: never stop doing good things. Not enough credit is given to how easy - and simultaneously rewarding - it is to make someone else's day with a simple gesture or a helping hand.
One of my most prolific students often says, “It costs zero dollars to be a good person," and sarcasm aside, he's right: kindness is, and always will be, its own reward.
As I said, my intention here tonight was not to deliver a collection of - platitudes for which you likely have very little use. Instead, I believe it is much more important - vital, even – that you be reminded of all the things you already are, can be, and should continue to be as you leave Perryville High School behind. Rather than impressing upon you how to change and become an adult, I want to implore you to trust your instincts and continue to be the marvelous people you already are, because it is my belief that if you do so, growth and change will only enhance those wonderful attributes.
And so, with that in mind, and in the immortal words of one of my greatest teaching influences – Mister George Feeny - I leave you with this: Dream. Try. Do good. (And no, despite my subject of expertise, I don't mean "do well;" I mean do good.) Thank you.
I love you all.