WHS grads told they have purpose

By Joseph Slacian

Two things went through the mind of Wabash High School Valedictorian Linda Fu when she learned she had to give a speech at the school’s May 28 Commencement ceremony.

“First, I can’t believe that we are graduating,” she said. “I definitely don’t feel old enough. Secondly, honestly, I didn’t know how to spell the word valedictorian. So now you must be thinking, the valedictorian doesn’t even know how to spell valedictorian, she must be an imposter.

“Nah. If you truly know me, y’all know common sense is not my best quality, yet somehow I got the highest weighted GPA. This all goes to show that there are different kinds of smarts, and I believe each and every one of you is smart in your little unique ways.

“Plus, after typing that word so many times, I can spell valedictorian now. This all goes to show (that) time and effort really pay off, too.”

Reflecting on her time at Wabash, Fu said something in Erin Sapusek’s DC English class stood out to her: “What it means to be a human?”

“The strongest word that stuck with me out of all the words we came up with was purpose,” she said, reflecting on the classroom discussion. “I believe we have a purpose here on this Earth. But, I don’t want you to be stressed out about trying to accomplish that purpose, if will be done through living. This is why I want each and every single one of you to do your best living your individually unique lives.

“To exist is a blessing and I hope all of you here make the best of it.

To end her speech, Fu gave a message in Chinese to her classmates: “zhu ni yi lu shun fong, which means, wishing you the best no matter whichever road you choose.”

Salutatorian Madison Bartoo told her classmates that though they may not realize it now, their paths have likely crossed during their time at WHS.

“I won’t claim to know each and every one of you personally, because I don’t,” she said. “But that doesn’t make us complete strangers. Maybe we sat next to each other for three weeks in chemistry freshman year. Maybe we walked past each other in the hallway and never spoke a word. But one way or another, our paths have crossed.

“This class has a connection with each other we can’t deny. A connection that we’ve come to value even more this year, cherishing every chance we have to be with each other, even if it’s six feet apart.

“Wabash High School was a huge part of our lives for four years, and it’s time to say goodbye. No, we didn’t always get along and God knows we didn’t always want to be a part of the 2 a.m. study nights, the Saturday morning practices, or even the embarrassing photos posted on Mr. (Vice Principal Jeff) Galley’s Instagram. But that doesn’t mean the times we spent together are any less important.

The class, she said, has 13 years’ worth of memories that will be with them forever.

“But now is the time to go out into the world and make separate memories and separate connections with other people,” Bartoo continued. “Connections that we will think about when we are old and gray and smile about them.”

Now is the time to leave the nest and take the next step, she told her classmates.

“Some of us will look back at this time as the best years of our lives, the good, old days, and connections that we have now will stay with us forever,” she concluded. “And now, I leave you with the wise words of And Bernard, ‘I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”

After the class, led by school board and faculty members, marched into the Coolman Gymnasium, Nicole Gunderman and Cash Carmichael gave opening remarks and welcomed the guests to the ceremony.

The Symphnairs, under the direction of Mark Nevil, performed “I Was Here” and “You Raise Me Up.”

Following the speeches of Bartoo and Fu, Principal Kyle Wieland presented the class their diplomas. Before doing so, he reminded them of the tough year they faced, but they should always remember that though they had to bend because of changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, they never did break. He urged them to keep that attitude the rest of their lives.

Once the class had their diplomas, Fu led them in the traditional turning of the tassel.

Following a slide show of senior memories, the pre-recorded selections from “The Phantom of the Opera” was performed by the Wabash High School band under the direction of Kaitlyn Whinery.

Posted on 2021 Jun 08