MARSHALL - Keynote speaker Melanie Braam offered insightful words of wisdom from a variety of well-known individuals along with helpful and genuine advice of her own to the 12 Marshall East Campus Learning Alternative graduates at the 2013 graduation ceremony Tuesday morning.
"Maybe you wanted to be a star football player, the next American Idol or a movie star," said Braam, a teacher at MECLA. "When you're young, anything seems possible. It's the growing up thing that can steer us off the path towards our dreams. But if you dream it, you can achieve it. Never let anyone tell you your dreams are not possible. Never forget the importance of following your passion."
Take time to smell the roses, Braam said, adding that the students should have goals but should also take time to just appreciate things in life.
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Anthony Calderon, left, got a congratulatory handshake from Marshall Public School Principal Brian Jones at the 2013 graduation ceremony Tuesday morning at Marshall East Campus Learning Alternative.
"Abbie Hoffman said, 'Today is the first day of the rest of your life,'" Braam said. "This isn't just about your graduation day. Hopefully, you'll wake up every day and realize it can be a new start."
Braam also pointed out that it's OK to make mistakes along the way.
"Robert F. Kennedy said 'Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly,'" she said. "Forgive yourself for the mistakes you've made in the past. Mistakes are lessons. They're often hard to deal with, but they are tools that help you grow."
Braam noted that she hoped the graduates would always find a way to persevere. Vince Lombardi said "the difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will," she said.
Braam then brought up Abraham Lincoln, who she said failed in business at age 21, was defeated in a legislative race at 22, failed again in business at age 24, overcame the death of his sweetheart at age 26, had a nervous breakdown at age 27, lost a congressional race at age 34, lost another congressional race at age 36, lost a senatorial race at age 45, failed in an effort to become vice president at age 47, lost a senatorial race at age 49 and was elected the president of the United States at the age of 52.
"That was 10 major setbacks, but old Abe didn't give up," Braam said. "Graduates, make sure you don't either."
With the words of Tennessee Williams, Braam reminded the graduates that "enthusiasm is the most important thing in life."
"Attitude is everything," Braam said. "So be positive. No one wants an Eeyore in their life."
Braam also advised students to be grateful to people who have helped them along the way, to never waste or underestimate their potential and to be humble and kind.
"A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle, said Benjamin Franklin," Braam said. "Part of growing up is realizing that the world doesn't revolve around you."
Don't be afraid to spread your wings, Braam said, then quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Don't be too timid or squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better."
New opportunities will never come your way if you don't take chances, Braam continued.
"My advice would be to join the military," she said. "Sixteen countries in five years and free college tuition wasn't a bad deal. But if the military isn't for you, don't sweat it. Just try taking some chances."
Graduating senior Anthony Calderon said he's ready for new opportunities in his future. His first venture is serving in the United States Army.
"I'm very, very confident about my future," Calderon said. "I've got so many things to look forward. I've got my military career to look forward to. I'm excited. I go to Fort Benning in Georgia on August 12, for my basic training. It feels incredible."
Calderon said he made the decision to enter the armed services because of the many role models around him.
"My mom and dad were both in the Army, and my teacher, Ms. Braam, whom I'm really grateful for, is in the Navy," he said. "Everybody around me was going to the military. My best friend is in the Marines, and I have other friends in the Navy, so I was thinking that I might as well do it.
"I knew it would make me feel good about myself because I'd not only be protecting those that I love but also the place that I live, America. I'd be doing everything that I can to give back to the community that gave so much to me."
The fact that he could have his college education paid for was another benefit, Calderon said.
"My goal is to do the full 20 years, maybe more, in the United States Army," he said. "Then I would get my tuition paid for and could start my college career doing whatever I can think of in the future. It's amazing."
Like most of her classmates, Cassie Roberts is also excited about the future.
"I'm going to go to college to become a cosmetologist and then work as a cosmetologist while I go to a university to become a kindergarten teacher," Roberts said. "I like little kids."
When asked to sum up her high school years, Roberts stated that there "was never a dull moment."
Individually, Calderon and Roberts addressed the graduating class and large gathering of supporters, presenting their thoughts as the senior class speakers. Also graduating were Jessica Barboza, Samantha Buysse, Antonio Don Juan, Sasha Esquivel, Dillan Sando, Nolan St. Aubin, Michael Stillo, Nathaniel Vick, Jacob Zimmerman and Andrew Zollner.
"I just wanted to get across that life doesn't end here and to never give up," Roberts said. "There are also people there to help you. They're not all fighting against you."
As Assistant Principal Michelle Noriega read their names, graduates came forward, one at a time, to receive a blue-tipped carnation and a certificate from Principal Brian Jones and Superintendent Klint Willert. As everyone proceeded to the lunch area, Braam's parting words to the graduates were still likely on their minds, even though the famous character she was quoting might have been famous long before their time.
"You are no longer tadpole," Braam said. "The time has come for you to leave the swamp. But I'm sure that wherever you go, if I travel around the world, I'll find each and every one of you working your tails off to save other swamps and give those of us who live there a chance to survive. May success and a smile always be yours, even when you are knee-deep in the sticky muck of life, said Kermit the Frog."