CHAZY - The lessons learned in their time at Chazy Central Rural School will be ones members of the Class of 2011 will carry with them throughout the rest of their lives, said senior Astrid Kempainen.
That was the message Kempainen gave during the school's 93rd annual commencement exercises June 23 as she served as this year's featured student speaker.
Kempainen addressed the audience, reflecting on the time she and her peers spent at CCRS and their successes along the way. Though graduation is what Kempainen considered her class' "final goodbye," she noted it was "not a melancholy day."
"It is a day of celebration, a day of successes, a day of recognizing not just our class as a whole, but also of individual feats and accomplishments," she said. "Whether going off to college, entering the workforce, or joining the military, everyone has something to be proud of."
What Kempainen said she was particularly proud of was how each of the 43 students in her school's graduating class was able to stand out by being their own person, yet still get along well with their classmates.
"There are so many different types of people in our class with a vast array of interests, hobbies, activities, music, entertainment, and ways of dress," said Kempainen. "We have always been able to get along. Despite obvious differences, when put in a group with people who were not our friends, we were able to have a good time with whatever we were accomplishing."
However, getting to that point took time, with students developing their own groups of friends along the way, and not really all getting close until their senior year, said Kempainen.
"We finally understood how much more fun it is when everyone is on the same page, and when everyone is together," she said of senior year. "We became excited to work in groups, and we were able to accomplish a lot, because everyone wanted to contribute and wanted to have a voice in making decisions. This new realization is wonderful, but at the same time, extremely frustrating. Why couldn't we have figured this out before? Why did we wait until our senior year to realize how much better it is to interact with everyone?"
The realization has also been bittersweet, said Kempainen, as it has come at a time when she and many of her classmates will continue on their paths, but in separate directions. That hit her most when the school celebrated Class Day, and Kempainen realized it was one of the last times she would be with all the members of her class. The thought left her in tears, she said.
"However, having this strong emotion showed how much you all mean to me and how much you have made my high school career an enjoyable one," she said as she looked out at her classmates.
Though the future holds uncertainty, there is more to look forrard to than be afraid of, Kempainen said.
"I am sure there will be plenty of horrible days, and days filled with tears, but I firmly believe that they will be overshadowed by the good moments with new memories that we will hold very close," she said. "It has been said that, every accomplishment starts with the decision to try. It is the will to practice and work hard that brings people further than natural talent. I have seen the effort that every one of you put in our senior projects, and I know that if that same passion and willpower is applied to life, everyone will go far."