NKHS graduation: themes of luck, support and criticism fill grad speeches

Most high school graduations follow a similar ceremonial formula, with the stand out moments coming from the speeches given by select students and faculty. In this right, North Kitsap High Schools graduation did not disappoint.

The June 14 ceremony’s key speakers included Valedictorians Thomas Adams and Ronan Bottoms, Salutatorian Treyson Gliech. Principal Megan Sawicki and ASB Senior class President Alex Moran-Aguirre and Executive President Alaina Marcotte also spoke at the event.

Salutatorian Treyson Gliech, who will be heading to the University of Washington, kicked off the speeches. Gliech stated how he felt the class of 2019 was lucky. Reminiscing about his time as a freshman, listening to upperclassmen talk about how they only had a few more years left at NKHS.

“I thought, they have it all backwards. We freshmen are the lucky ones, this school is ours for the taking and we have the most time left to enjoy it,” he said.

Gleich ended his speech with a quote from Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, The Places You’ll Go.”

“Congratulations, today is your day. You’re off to great places, you’re off and away. You have brains in your head, and feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own and you know what you know, and you are the guy who will decide where you go. Oh, the places you’ll go.”

Ronan Bottoms, one of two valedictorians used his speech to not only give thanks to the teachers who inspired him, but to talk to the class of 2019 about the high hopes he has for them.

“I can’t give you some motivational talk. I haven’t accomplished anything, I’m only 18. I can’t tell you to seize the future, work hard, or to achieve greatness because that’s not necessarily true. There is so much in our lives that is dictated by luck and is out of our control. What I can do is express my hope. My hope for myself and all of you,” said Bottoms.

“My hope is that as we travel through life and ultimately put down roots of our own, that we never forget the role we played for those around us, and never forget what truly gives what we do meaning,” he added.

Bottoms may have also jump started a career in stand up comedy, through his proud admission of being a nerd.

“I am, by definition, a nerd. I don’t know how to fix a car. I’ve never sat down to watch an entire NFL Football game. I don’t know the rules that govern baseball and I have had the distinct honor of being picked last for teams in P.E.” Bottoms said.

Bottoms also provided humorous commentary on the confusion of high school event scheduling.

“This is high school, where nothing makes much sense and we are left with more questions than answers. Where graduation is at 7 p.m. as if I’m going to go bar hopping with my family as an after party.”

While Bottoms’ speech was decidedly noteworthy for his humor, perhaps the most pointed and thought-provoking speech came from valedictorian, Thomas Adams, who is bound for the University of Denver.

Adams’ speech was both critical of the school system, but hopeful for the future of himself and his classmates and encouraged them to “find their happy.”

“I am up here today as part of a long standing tradition, in which the student who best keeps their grade book in a constant state of fear, is asked to give words of inspiration to fellow classmates they represent. I know that a mere GPA couldn’t possibly hope to represent you all. Truth is my position is simply a product of giving myself to a system, greater than this school alone, that rewards the wrong things. It rewards immediate results, rather than the potential growth of knowledge and growth of person,” Adams said reflecting on the academic rigors of attaining the title of valedictorian.

“I don’t feel qualified to be showered with these congratulations because I know what it cost me. For the last four years I have isolated myself in service to the schoolwork that was ultimately valued more than myself. It required me to reap the products of mental illness, which I hope against hope I can someday conquer,” Adams added.

“I know that among you there are many who have worked harder than I have. To make ends meet both personally and academically, and yet are not given the same level of recognition. Because I was not only lucky, but in a place of privilege where I could actually devote myself to academics primarily. To all of you, I am genuinely proud of you. You display a level of strength that I could never hope to match,” The valedictorian said.

“These massive systems implemented in our society, that we mistake for universal truth, are not necessarily designed with our personal wellbeing in mind, and by no means will end after high school.”

“I don’t say this to rant or change anything directly. Change can come as much as we are willing to change ourselves. And that is certainly not going to happen over night. We don’t need to give in to the division that our competitive society feeds on and lose sight of each other. Above all else the true support that can carry each and every one of us into the inevitable challenges and overwhelming odds we will face from here on out, comes from the kindness of others.”

“If there is one thing I have learned in the last four years, it’s that I made a mistake. Forgetting those who supported me and forgetting myself most importantly. Its important to remember when you need to stop sacrificing and instead start giving to yourself. Its not vanity, its self-care,” Adams said.

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