2020 CHS Valedictorian, Salutatorian Speeches Recorded And Televised
Valedictorian – Avery Grace Walker: A State Employees Credit Union Scholarship recipient; CHS Star Student Award; 2020 Gaston Gazette “Best and Brightest” recipient, numerous outstanding subject awards from CHS; college: UNC – Chapel Hill, majoring in Nursing; she wants to pursue a career in Pediatric or Geriatric Nursing. She is the daughter of Reggie and Angela Walker.
“Good morning, afternoon, or evening, whatever time you are watching this graduation.
“I am so honored to still be able to speak to you, even if it is through a screen. First and foremost, I would like to thank everyone who has gone out of their way in the most recent events to make this class feel so special due to COVID-19. Whether that be parents, faculty, City of Cherryville personnel, or local businesses, on behalf of the entire class of 2020, thank you all. You have been a ray of sunshine to us in this series of cloudiness.
“So, here it is… graduation day. Who would have thought that our senior year would have been cut so short and that we wouldn’t be able to see each other in the process? Our class has surely been through it all, the good times... and the not so good times. But, through everything, we knew we could count on each other to be there for whatever adversity we had to face. We were never alone.
“We have faced many losses as a class. Some of those being parents, grandparents, siblings, and even past teachers, Ms. Boyer and Mrs. Camp. Some losses were milestones in our schooling years, such as a traditional eighth grade trip, senior trip, and of course, classic senior festivities. However, we always found a way to make things better by outweighing the negative with something positive. And I feel that we have defined ourselves as being one of the strongest classes to go through Cherryville High School.
“I have been given the responsibility to expand upon our past. However, I think that the sequence of events that we have experienced together, from the beginning, is what best defines us. Our story truly began as we underwent elementary school with nap time, the Fairytale Ball, space travel, the Q&U wedding that was 100 percent real and legal, many field days, field trips, and more. We hadn’t truly defined ourselves as 'the class with the perfect vision’ until we joined together in middle school, and what a crazy place that was.
“Middle school will be remembered by all of us as going to break, attending dances, going to the Valentines’ Dance, travelling to Gatlinburg, and being the place where we are all actually kind of embarrassed of who we were and most importantly, of how we dressed. But, sometimes unfortunately, it defines us. Through that shame, we moved on to be high schoolers. Here, we would spend 'the best four years of our lives’; but instead it would be known as the best three and three-quarter years of our lives.
“Our true bond with one another started as we all came together for one of our classmates as her brother had passed away. We gathered together to pray for Noah, the Hampton’s, and the Cherryville community as we lost a CHS family member. Through prayer and friendship, we flourished in a dark time.
“Senior year was one to remember, though. Some of the events that we were able to experience, such as having a tailgate for a senior breakfast before our last first day of school, having the greatest homecoming and spirit week C-Ville style, driving through town in a parade all to ourselves, and even that 91-90 overtime victory over North Lincoln where Lane tied the school record in points, with the help of us Metal Heads of course, were just some of the things that were truly unforgettable. “Adversity is defined as to be an unfavorable fortune or fate, and what is more unfavorable than having a pandemic ruin everything it possibly could. Unfortunate circumstances have been presented to us in many different situations, but we have always been able to overcome whatever curveball that has been thrown at us.
“So this, my fellow graduates, is what I believe best defines our past: our ability to overcome adversity. With this being said, if we do all things together, we are unstoppable. With that mindset, we will continue to do great things. With our story, we can illuminate the lives of others.
“Thank you all for being such a big impact in my life. Without each and every one of you and your unique personalities, our past thirteen years would not have been as memorable. To the teachers, staff, parents, honorable speakers, and most importantly, to our Lord and Savior, thank you. We would not be the class we are today without your help, support, and prayers.
“Well, we’ve done it and we have been through it all. There is so much that we should all be proud of on this day. We are at the end of our journey together, but this isn’t the end.
“Remember, fellow classmates, always be yourself. This is how you will make the world a better place and make a difference. Be a difference maker.
“Congratulations Class of 2020!”
Salutatorian – Juliana Leigh Vollmer: Recipient of Merit Scholarships at The University of Pennsylvania and Wake Forest University; 2018 National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists Award; nominated for the Academies at Harvard; numerous outstanding subject awards from CHS; college: University of Pennsylvania, majoring in Biochemistry and Biophysics; wants to attend Medical School to obtain an MD and a PhD in Pathology and work with Doctors Without Borders Program. She is the daughter of Julia Vollmer and the late Pete Vollmer.
“Good morning faculty, friends, and family. I am humbled to have the honor of speaking to you today.
“When I was told I would be giving the 'Future’ speech this year, I was elated. And terrified. What lesson should I impart? What would my audience like to hear? How could I write and deliver a memorable speech? These questions swirled through my head in a turbulent storm, each one capturing my attention for a split second before being pushed away by another, more pressing concern. Within that tornado of inquiries, I found a common theme: fear.
“Let’s go back to the first fear most of us experience: the fear of the dark. When I was young, I was terrified of the dark. I adamantly refused to walk outside at night or to sleep in a pitch-black bedroom. Even a night light wouldn’t dissuade my fear since the light would cast shadows along the walls, creating terrible and terrifying monsters before my imaginative eyes. To escape those horrendous beasts I would sleep in my parents’ bed. A nightly ritual of being tucked into my bed, imagining dark hands reaching out from the walls, and fleeing to my parents’ bedroom established itself. For years I would climb onto my parents’ bed, plant myself between them, and drift off to sleep. My parents’ were my protectors, my shields from the awful darkness.
“My dad, wishing that he could sleep through the night without me kicking him in the back (I had quiet restless legs as a child), eventually decided that I needed to sleep in my own bed. Stubborn as I was, I defied my dad. I know, I know – it’s hard to believe that I went against the rules but believe me – I did. My fear was a powerful motivator.
“Each night, after my dad tucked me into bed, I would sneak in and hide under my parents’ bed. Once my dad was asleep I would sneak back into my parents’ bed; back into my comfort zone.
“Now, I realize that I wasn’t scared of the darkness – there’s nothing inherently harmful about darkness. Instead, I was scared of what the darkness concealed and what it could create. In other words, I was fearful of the uncertainty.
“We have experienced countless uncertainties. Our class was born in the aftermath of a tragedy and now we’re graduating amid a pandemic. Though the latter situation offers the ultimate 'back-in-my-day’ story, it is not our last uncertainty. Some of us will go to college, learning about and exploring the world. Some of us will enter the job force, earning wages and experience alike. Whether you choose one of these paths or create another, you will have uncertainty. Don’t try to avoid it or be rid of it.
“Uncertainty is natural and human and inevitable. The future IS uncertainty. But you can’t allow fear to stop you from growing. Don’t allow the darkness to lead you back into a stagnant comfort zone.
“Take control and decide where you want to go. You don’t have to have a full-fledged plan; if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that the universe doesn’t really care about your 'to-do’ list.
“Instead, take one step each day towards a goal. I used to sit in a dark room for one minute, then ten minutes, then an hour, accumulating time until I could step into the darkness without hesitation. Every step wasn’t the same size and I wasn’t always moving forward, but I wasn’t letting the uncertainty dictate what I could do or how far I could go. Sometimes, I fell. Today, I still fall – even in the light, even in certainty. Mistakes happen but they are proof that you’re trying and you’re changing.
“Now, I won’t make the mistake of forgetting those who’ve helped me. As I, and the school year, draw to a close, I’d like to say 'thank you’
“Thank you to my mother for helping me find security; thank you to my teachers and friends for being with me in the darkness; and thank you to my fellow classmates for taking this ride with me. Many of us came together four years ago and we’ve said goodbye to some classmates while embracing new ones each year.
“Before we all part ways to follow our own paths, I’d like to challenge you all. I challenge you to not allow your fear to control you. I challenge you to leave your comfort zone, and I challenge you to embrace uncertainty.
“Walk into your darkness and don’t stop until you find the light.”