TCN Class of 2017 recognizes its blessings

By Kelsey Kimbler -

CLAYTON — Tri-County North became the first Preble County school to celebrate the Class of 2017 when the district recognized the graduation of 79 seniors at Salem Church of God on Thursday, May 25.

The ceremony featured speeches from the school’s six valedictorians, before Superintendent William Derringer and Tri-County North’s Board of Education presented the students with their diplomas.

Before the students were invited to address their peers, Derringer addressed those in attendance and said a few words to the soon-to-graduating class. He said, “The combination of good parenting, good teaching, and a good community results in the quality of young person that is seated behind me. For that, you all should be congratulated.”

He then told the graduates to stay motivated, help others using their education and skills, and always do what is right instead of easy.

Next, TCN Class of 2017 President Emily Dempsey took the stage to introduce her class co-advisor Lisa Conley. Before introducing her advisors, Dempsey reflected on the last four years of her life, going as far back as freshman year, where at first she felt like she was “entering into adulthood,” only to realize that freshman year was about “fitting in.” She then discussed senior year and how it was her favorite.

Conley took the stage and talked about how she was asked to be co-advisor by Mrs. Karmer, only to later realize how daunting of a task she had taken on. Once fundraising began she started to see what sort of kids she had chosen to lead. She said, “I got to meet some really crazy hardworking kids who really make this school. They worked really hard on all of the fundraising events and then they turned around and unselfishly gave the fruits of their labor to their fellow classmates. I am very honored and thankful that I got to be your class advisor.”

High school principal Joe Hoelzle introduced salutatorian Trenton Napier, and then it was time for six valedictorian speeches. Marley Judd spoke first, starting her speech by thanking her parents, teachers, and friends for their support of the years. She then shared that all of the valedictorians met after school to discuss what theme their speeches should have, which, she said, was not an easy feat.

She said, “We decided, after much debate and some frustration, that our theme would be vague; a reflection of our high school experiences and what lessons we could take from it as we move into our futures.’

“All of us have plans and goals for our futures,” she added. “But there is something we face in our lives that we never planned for and that we never intend to: failure. Some time in our life we will face failure. Maybe you won’t get the job you were hoping for, or you don’t get into your dream college, you don’t get the part, or you don’t win – you just don’t success. Maybe a high school graduation is not an appropriate place to bring up the inevitability of failure, but failure is not necessarily a bad thing. It is not something to be feared.

“It can show us where we went wrong, it can show us our mistakes so we can fix them in the future, it can also show us that what we are pursuing may not be the best fit for us. Failure can be disappointing and devastating. We can either submit to our failure and be crushed over it, or we can use it to our advantage. We can use it as a motivator.”

Valedictorian Timothy Stubblefield took a different approach to his speech. He decided to discuss George Lucas and the Star Wars franchise. He said, “The reason Luke [Skywalker] is so powerful, in my opinion, is that it reinforces the fact that anybody can be brave. Perhaps the most crucial element of Starwars is the Force. The two sides of the Force represent the choices that we make and that come our way.”

Kyle Sykes discussed how competition at first affected him negatively, but eventually made him a better student.

“Like many children growing up, I was competitive,” he said. “There was a down side to being so competitive. Namely, the problem was that I let this competition directly affect my self esteem.”

He added, “I decided that I would only compete with myself. I would only worry about my achievements, as opposed to other people’s achievements. For example, if I talked to five people, the next day I would talk to six — as I sometimes have issues talking to people. This unlocked goal setting. I knew I could beat my previous record, because I had already done it.

“At the end of my high school career, I’ve come to the conclusion that competition does breed good success, as the quote states, but only if you compete with yourself to become the best version of yourself.”

Lindsay Owens spoke about education and school itself. She said, “Education has the power to teach people to be open, open to new experiences and open to each other. It can show us how to learn from mistakes of past generations, how to speak and write to inspire those around you, and how to plan our own futures.

“In this country, we are so blessed to have access to education. Other’s across the world only hope to attain what we have, because, unfortunately, education is not a right for others. So, graduates, I encourage you as you move on into adulthood, and wherever that takes you, recognize the beautiful blessings that school has provided you with.”

Valedictorian John Stubblefield also chose to focus on the opportunities permitted to United States citizens, but according to John Stubblefield, he and his brother (Timothy Stubblefield) have a unique appreciation for the country.

He said, “We were not born in America. We were born in Russia. Now, before we are accused, we did not hack the Presidential election. Anyway, we were placed in an orphanage and were adopted by the greatest parents ever. We have a great appreciation for what they did, and a deep affection for America – the country that saved us.

“I could very well be on a desperate farm or a street corner, struggling to survive. I would not know the freedoms of America, and certainly would not be valedictorian of my high school,” he said. “So as a person who has experienced America at its greatest, I cannot be told that this country is anything other than great.”

Valedictorian Chelsey Strawser focused on her own blessings, one being her late coach Darren Baldasare, who passed in December. Strawser got teary eyed as she said, “During my four years of high school, I’ve learned more than I thought I would, due to situations I’ve been put through. One experience that has effected me the most was having the privilege of Darren Baldasare being my coach. You taught me how to play the game of soccer. Every practice was a life lesson when I walked away. You showed me how to patient, how to be courageous, how hard work pays off, and how to be positive when you are going through a bad week.”

She continued to compare life to a the game of soccer and finished, saying, “As we all depart, I hope you take a small piece of this speech and learn from it. As Coach would say, “don’t be average’ and “work harder than your opponent in whatever you do next.’ Good luck to all of you.”

A total of 79 Tri-County North seniors graduated this year. The class of 2017 was awarded a total of $740,090 in scholarships.

Tri-County North’s senior class president Emily Dempsey speaks during commencement exercises on Thursday, May 25. North’s senior class president Emily Dempsey speaks during commencement exercises on Thursday, May 25.

By Kelsey Kimbler

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH