144th Commencement

144th Commencement
144th Commencement

                As the sun set in downtown Kokomo on June 1st, approximately 410 Kokomo High School students – donning blue caps and gowns – exited Memorial Gym with a new title: Kokomo High School Alumni.

                Following the 144th Commencement Exercises, graduates from the KHS Class of 2018 embraced family members and posed for photos in front of the Kokomo Wildkats pickup truck (a red 1949 Chevrolet step-side truck restored by students at the Kokomo Area Career Center).
Class of 2018

                This year’s graduating class earned more than $4.6 million in scholarships. Nine Kokomo students earned super GPAs (12.0 or above on a 12-point scale), including Christian Abney, Jacob Ashburn, Corey Dea, Katelyn Dowden, Hannah Harrell, Nathaniel Hemmerich, Jack Perkins, Aaryan Morrison, and Andrea Stout. Thirty-one students were named Bronze Plaque Honor Graduates for maintaining an overall GPA of 10.25, with no semester grade below a “B”.

                The KHS Class of 2018 featured 12 IB Diploma Program and IB Career Related Diploma Program candidates. Thirty-two international students, from 9 different countries, earned their Kokomo High School diplomas. The KHS Class of 2018 also included more than 75 students from Twilight School, which is a flexible program designed to help people earn a high school diploma.

                Christian Abney is the KHS Class of 2018 Valedictorian, and Aaryan Morrison is this year’s Salutatorian. Both students are attending Harvard University in the fall to earn degrees in government, with a focus on international relations. They are among nine students from Central Indiana accepted into Harvard’s Class of 2022. Aaryan and Christian are among 1,962 total students accepted to Harvard this year, out of 42,749 applicants – marking the lowest ever acceptance rate at the university.

                Included below is the full text of each student’s commencement address to their fellow graduates.


Christian Abney’s valedictorian address:

Good evening.

                In a few short hours, we’ll each be handed a single piece of paper. Throughout high school, we’ve all received thousands of papers, and likely written even more. A cynic may say the paper is an ill reward for the thousands of hours we invested, yet this paper is meant to be special. For one, it's made of cardstock, and perhaps more importantly, it symbolizes the formative journey we experienced in its pursuit.
Abney Speech

                We will undoubtedly find ourselves in possession of more paper, both sought after and despised.  As on your diploma, your name will appear in countless other papers: in payrolls, checks, and emails, and perhaps, even in history.  We will, undoubtedly, be gettin’ paper.

                Yet, paper cannot define our lives.  Throughout high school, we’ve embarked on a venture of self-exploration. You’ve discovered the topics which leave you enthralled, the profession toward which you aspire, your interests, or maybe that you need more time to determine these things.  Though the final achievement of this experience was indeed a piece of paper, its value amounts to much more. This paper is a summation of our greater achievements in academics and activities, of triumph in the face of far greater challenges.

                I encourage you all to pursue passion instead of paper. We may be drawn toward that paper chase, but doing so sacrifices the many gifts with which we have been blessed.  Each of us offers a unique set of skills and experiences.  When we combine these with our passions, our dedication becomes even more impactful. The greatest contribution each of us can ever give is our full, impassioned efforts.  As a class, we have achieved many.  We have the largest cumulative amount of scholarships in school history, and also, the most students EVER to dress as memes in a single day.  Both were the result of talent set to an irrepressible passion.  Our impressive legacy exists as a sign of the unprecedented initiative and interest we displayed in pursuit of what we love.

                Our futures remain yet to be determined.  We may seek the same paper used to narrow-mindedly define success, but such actions leave our potential unrealized.  I urge you to let your passions be the guide to all your endeavors.  Cristopher Morley best captured this sentiment, reminding us, “There is only one success - to spend your life in your own way.” Only then can you fill the papers of history, and far more importantly, the hearts and minds of your community.

                Impassioned student groups have profoundly impacted our school and the greater community. In teams and school groups, we all have seen the effect a select few passionate individuals have on all members.  Teams create accountability and confidence.  These groups are defined by the mutual benefit that all receive from the contributions of each.  I encourage you, as you discover and pursue your interests, to contribute inspiration: to inspire others to do the same.  Our football and dance teams have shown how passion is spread to all members of their team.  They surpassed expectations in a show of shared success, rising to the challenge of competitions at the state level.  Both emerged from the constraints imposed by paper records and rankings to accomplish unprecedented feats in the history of our high school.  Let their love and passion for their sports serve as an example for us all.  With cooperation and passion, our successes can exceed all expectations.

                As we approach even more opportunities ahead, let us never forget the place from which we came.  Follow your passions without abandoning your roots.  Kokomo has given us the opportunity to define ourselves as we choose.  Our activities and interests have come to span all fields academic, athletic, and extracurricular.  We have matured, learned, and persevered through our community.  Our class has taken Kokomo’s tenacious spirit to heart in overcoming its adversities.  We were there to rebuild our community following the 2016 tornadoes, but also to spend thousands of hours volunteering all over the city and beyond.  As we worked to restore a vibrant, thriving community, it forged us into the caring, principled, and responsible individuals we are today.  Should your future take you outside your community, take with you the strength and resiliency that define Kokomo.  

                Our generation comprises the leaders of tomorrow; we will not be deterred from our passions for materialistic motives.  We will be more than names on schedules and checks, more than diplomas and awards.  We will follow our passions with charisma, inspiring others to do the same.  We will be caring, reflective, and dedicated.  We will be Wildkats- because once a Wildkat, always a Wildkat.


Aaryan Morrison’s salutatorian address:

                [NOTE: Aaryan is an International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program candidate, so she uses the IB World spelling of several words, such as “honour”, “realise,” “recognise”, and “organise” throughout her speech.]

 Morrison Speech

                Find X. Two words we all know; a directive which we have followed countless times. A challenge that has stumped us; and by now too, a nerdy meme. Though many of us, myself included, hope we have taken our final math class, we should not forget these two words.

                Find X.

                We understand that X is a variable. A variable is defined as “an element, feature, or factor that is liable to vary or change.” We have been taught that X cannot be found without considering its surroundings: that we cannot be sure of our answer unless it is “plugged back in” to the original equation. So too is life. Like x, life is a variable heavily dependent on the circumstances that surround it and does not make much sense until the end, when it is full and satisfactory.

                Hopefully, you will allow me to teach one final math lesson in order to prove my point, for I believe it is important that we reflect on all we have learned to find its true application. So please consider an indirect proof.

                In order to use this type of proof, we must first suppose I am wrong in saying that life is X. If this is true, then life is not in fact a variable; thus it is a constant. A constant is defined as “a situation or state of affairs that does not change.” Then, life being a constant, we assume that it follows a path which can be mapped in definitive detail and progresses in a regular fashion.
Morrison Diploma

                This means that seven years ago, my lifelong Catholic school friends should not have had to stumble upon a typed letter informing my parents I wished to enroll in the International Baccalaureate program- at a public middle school- to know that I would no longer be their classmate. This means that two years ago, the death of freshman English teacher and high school mentor Ms. Melanie Peoples while on an ambassadorship to China was foreseen and none of us accompanying students and chaperones should have been particularly rattled by its peaceful but sudden occurrence. This means that the emphatic response of the student-organised #765StandBackUp initiative in the wake of the 2016 tornadoes should have been downplayed as just another group of students doing something routinely expected. This means that hopeful hearts should not have been truly broken at the end of the Class 5A Football State Final due to pre-existing knowledge of the game’s outcome. This means that Snapchat should have been dormant as many gathered by the field in memorandum of the lives lost in the Parkland shooting because this expression of sadness and solidarity is commonplace in such a youthful environment. And finally, this means that the legacy of greatness which this class has fortified for itself over the past four years should just be recognised with a passive, unimpressed “I told you so.”

                But all of these are false. To be a constant is to be unchanging, predictable: each of these events challenged and changed the status quo. Our effort to clear the tornado ravaged streets of our city is a well-documented display of student spontaneity and selflessness. Our historical journey to Lucas Oil Stadium demonstrates our fighting spirit carrying the pride and hope of our city. Our legacy of talent, determination, hard work, selflessness, and excellence is a shining gem among the generations of classes that have graced this gymnasium. We have emerged as the unexpected paradigm of what it truly means to be a Kokomo Wildkat. None of these successes were foreseen or could have been foreseen by the audiences that experienced their occurrence; each changed our lives.

                So therefore, given that the conditions for constancy are not achieved, life must be a variable.

                My friends, X is Life.

                I urge you to realise that this elusive X is not a singular occurrence with a concrete status or fixed “equal to” statement. Rather, it is dependent on the ever-shifting circumstances which surround it and provide meaningful context. It can only be truly validated in the end, when it is “plugged back in” to the big historical equation of the world for all to see- but most importantly, for us to see- that there was in fact, never a wrong answer.

                As we run to our futures, we shouldn’t forget the colossal simplicity of these two words. Find X.

                They remind us that we are on a journey. The “here and now” and “then and there” are exactly where they are intended to be. As we venture on from this moment, may these words remind us it is folly to regret the past and yearn for the future while attempting to live in the present. Congratulations Class of 2018, and thank you- for it has been an honour to teach you this final lesson. We have a lifetime to find X. We have now to live.

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