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WEST HOLMES DISTRICT -- Sharing with the audience and her fellow students, West Holmes High School class of 2017 valedictorian Natasha Latouf abandoned the typical optimistic fluff for a brief science lesson Saturday evening, May 27.
"Life is mysterious and crazy. No one knows where we're going to be in 10 years," said Latouf, quick to explain how time really does appear to fly the older one becomes.
"Time goes faster and faster the older you get," Latouf said, noting a single year does not get shorter, but, as one ages, it becomes fractionally less of an individual's life.
Regardless the endeavor, she said, "Time is not going to help you. Nothing in life is eternal. Everything eventually is going to dissipate to dust."
And, with that understanding, she encouraged her classmates to make the most of every moment.
Moving into the future, she reminded them, "We're an empty, clean slate."
"Make your life into something that is not necessarily world-renowned, but is, inarguably, your own," she said, urging them to collectively "use your time to change the world as we know it."
And, after thanking all those who have supported her over the years, she said, "Now go out and make the world yours."
Similarly, after welcoming all parents, friends, family and classmates, salutatorian Kate Rodhe briefly shared sentiments shared with her by several after learning she'd learned the second highest academic honor for her class. Often noting the task of giving a speech should be easy considering her life on stage, Rodhe said, their comments effectively became her inspiration.
That said, she briefly outlined her life on the stage, a life that began when she assumed a role in her first musical while only in fourth grade. Since, she has participated in another five musicals and one play.
Consequently, she's come to appreciate the lessons from the stage that also apply to real life.
"A show cannot come together without each person playing a role, no matter how big or small," she said, pointing not only to the academic and the class clown, but the athlete and band or choir nerd.
As the show of what has been their life is coming to an end, "our roles are changing."
And, she said, "Unlike a theater production, we get to pick our roles every single day."
She reminded her peers, "You don't have to be the same person you were in high school in the future.
"Every person in this room is a work in progress. Every day you spend trying to figure out what role you're supposed to be is one step closer to becoming that," she said.
"As you go out into the future, I encourage you honestly to compare the role you are playing to the role you're supposed to be playing."
In accepting the class of 2017, Superintendent Bill Sterling noted members of the class have been offered $3 million in scholarships. Many will enter the workforce. Forty percent will pursue ongoing education at college. Six will be entering the military.
Expanding on Latouf's discussion of time, Sterling said, not only is it impossible to predict what will happen 10 years down the road, it can be difficult to anticipate what is only 10 minutes into the future.
He encouraged the graduates to, in light of this, take every opportunity to turn misfortune into fortune and choose to be producers, rather than consumers.
He challenged them to help others along the way, pushing aside the desire to see "what's in it for me."
That's because, at the end of a successful life, a good producer will leave a legacy, one that is reflected in the many lives they have impacted, affected and changed.
And, making a simple analogy to his purchase of a 2007 Toyota Prius, he said, "Dependably serving others is a choice. Assess your gifts. Find what your gifts are and utilize them to make others better."
"Be a producer," he said, explaining, "Happiness will be found in knowing you made a difference."
And, citing Albert Einstein, he said, "Strive not to be a success, but be of value."
Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.