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Southwood grads hear original, not cookie-cutter, commencement talks

By Joseph Slacian

One thing is certain about those attending Sunday afternoon’s Southwood High School’s 2021 Commencement ceremony:

They didn’t hear “cookie cutter” speeches from Valedictorian Braden Sweet or Salutatorian Maggie Ball.

In fact, both made some type of reference to that fact during their messages.

“So, I was about to just totally cheat on this thing and look up what to say, but that would be plagiarism, and I guess that’s illegal or something, who knows?” Ball said in her talk. “So, I figured I better not copy. But I also knew that my class deserved more. After everything we have been through they at least deserved something special and a little more personal.”

She noted that the class has been together since they were in the third grade and LaFontaine and Southwood elementary schools were consolidated.

“From then on memories were created from having recess every day that involved many broken bones and concussions, to thinking of some pretty interesting senior pranks,” Ball said. “I would say our class has strived in many aspects of our high school days, from musical arts to athletics.

“Several have gone to state events for choir, as well as band and not to mention the success that our boys have had in athletics, such as going to state for running, winning the sectional and conference in multiple sports.”

She noted that the class’ senior year has not been what they expected, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She didn’t dwell on the matter, but noted, “because of this year, one valuable life lesson that have all learned is to adapt.”

“We had to adapt to new ways of communicating with the family, to the new odd school year and even just being in public in general. Our school year looked a whole lot different and we missed out on doing the things that past seniors have gotten the chance to do.

“But, we put all that aside and overcame these obstacles.”

She urged her classmates to not forget their home roots and family traditions in which they were raised.

“Never be a victim to the storms you endure, but use those storms to propel you to never stop trying,” she said.

Sweet, referencing cookie cutter speeches, told the crowd from the get-go that if they were expecting such a message, “you’re in the wrong place.”

“Cookie-cutter isn’t who I am,” he said. “I spent a lot of high school trying to be somebody I was not. Recently we found out I have ADHD. That might not be a huge surprise, but it has impacted who I am, how I act and how I feel.

“We all have these things which make us different. Rather than hiding these things, let’s embrace them.”

He then shared a personal matter with his classmates and their families and friends.

“While I stand her number one in our class, that doesn’t mean things have been all good. In fact, even this last semester, I have had some major difficulties.

“For starters, I missed a lot of school, I skipped an AP test, and I collapsed after my regionals race. I didn’t move on.

“On top of these things, my extreme energy and short attention span has made school a real struggle. The fact that you may see me here today is a testament to goodness of God. It’s only by the grace that comes from Jesus Christ that I am even standing here.”

Sweet went on to thank the teachers, administrators and school staff for all their help, noting, “we couldn’t make school work without you.”

He continued with a message to his classmates.

“I met some of you in pre-school and some in kindergarten,” he said. “For others, you joined along the way. But regardless of when, at some points our stories overlapped. That means something to me, and I want to let you know that I appreciate you.”

The program began with the graduates marching in to the sound of “Pomp and Circumstance.”

After the playing of the national anthem, Isabel Davis welcomed the guests to the ceremony, while Mason Yentes and Mike Keaffaber, superintendent of the Metropolitan School Corporation, made various introductions.

The Southwood band, under the direction of Chris Hickman, performed “Fiera Winds” before Ball and Sweet gave their speeches.

Principal Andrew McDaniel presented the class and Keaffaber accepted them just prior to the awarding of diplomas.

Once the students received their diplomas, they encircled the floor holding candles during the annual candlelight ceremony while One Republic’s “I Lived” was played.

Following Alix Winer’s closing remarks, the students marched out as the school’s newest alumni to Smash Mouth’s song, “All Star.”

Posted on 2021 Jun 08