Fort Wayne Community Schools high school valedictorians, salutatorians reflect and inspire with graduation ceremony speeches

These South Side High School seniors wore their cap and gown for the Ivy Walk on the last day of school and wore them again for their school's graduation ceremony at noon today at Memorial Coliseum. ( file photo)

This has been a challenging school year for graduating high school seniors in the Fort Wayne area.

Along with the usual stresses of selecting a college and completing and passing all course requirements for graduation, they’ve had to do it in a background of turmoil in American society.

As a nation, we are divided over issues such as immigration reform, affordable health care, federal spending and politics. School shootings have left 31 students and adults dead in just the past six months, prompting some students to organize walkout and rallys calling for basic gun-control measures and others — mainly adults — to oppose them.

With all that they have endured this year, we thought it would be interesting to see what advice graduation speakers planned to give their classmates as they all prepare to go out into the world to begin the next phase of their lives.

We worked with Krista Stockman, public information officer for Fort Wayne Community Schools, to obtain advance copies of the students’ speeches. Here are excerpts from the remarks student leaders planned to give at FWCS high school ceremonies Friday and today at Memorial Coliseum:


(Speeches were given at Awards Night.)

Lauren Beatty, valedictorian

“Crazy things have happened since the class of 2018 started school. Wars have both begun and ended, international feuds have gotten deeper and sometimes it seems the world has become scarier than ever. We have also seen immense progress. Society has made strides toward the overall equality of all people, and we have seen the country come together in light of natural disasters and horrifying events, providing aid and love to people that need it most.

“It is easy to get caught up and conflicted with the good and bad things happening in the world, but like the graduates before us, and the graduates before them, we must face these challenges head-on. We have learned and grown, and now it is our job to continue the world’s progress in our own light.

Soon we are all going very different ways. We have chosen the paths that are right for us, creating a hundred individual lives and futures. Despite these differences, we are all taking this next step in entering the ‘real world’ together. As we make this transition, the question we ask should be revised one last time. We should ask, ‘How do I apply to real life,’ or more seriously, what can I do for the world I live in?

“We are what’s next. We are the future, and being young does not mean we do not have the power to better the world we live in. As Dr. Butler said to the National Honor Society just last week, when it comes to pursuing dreams and making a change, someone has to do it, so why can’t that person be you?”

Kyla Forkert, salutatorian

“… We have accomplished so much, and we have much to be proud of. Before I end tonight, I would like to offer three simple lessons for the class of 2018.

• “Never stop working and never give up. Every great rock band worked countless hours before experiencing the tiniest amount of success.

• “Remember to laugh, especially at yourself. Never take anything too seriously. No one likes a band that doesn’t seem to be enjoying themselves.

• “Friends are the most important people in your life, so cherish them. They see both your genius and your lunacy, and they often know you better than you know yourself. Bands wouldn’t exist without strong friendships between members.”


Katie Moravec, valedictorian

“What I would like to share with you all today stems from one of my favorite quotes. It comes from the song “Homecoming” by Kanye West, and states, “reach for the stars, so if you fall, you land on a cloud.” In this eloquently crafted lyric, Kanye is telling us that we should pursue our goals, even if the road ahead seems difficult, or what we imagined appears out of reach. If we encounter obstacles or do not end up exactly where we wanted to be, we will be better off for having went for our dreams than we would if we were complacent.

” … As we all enter this new phase of our lives, we are given the opportunity to be and do whatever our heart is set on. Take this chance to become your own person and do what truly brings you joy.

“I am going to end with a cliché, so I would like to apologize in advance. As Michael Scott once said when quoting Wayne Gretzky, “you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” Even though that statement may seem overused, it holds truth that is as relevant as ever. Go for your goals, do what you can to achieve your dreams and hopefully we will all have something to brag about when our high school reunion rolls around.”

Donovan Bouwers, salutatorian

“As we move forward in whatever direction we choose we must keep in mind the most important part of life, but that begs the question, what is the most important part of life? Is it education and learning, or perhaps occupation and money, or maybe it’s just about having a good time. No, it’s something much more basic than all of that: relationship. It’s the person on your left and right, the people in the stands cheering for you and your accomplishments, it’s your family, and your friends. One of the best feelings in the world is to love and be loved in return, and this extends to physical, spiritual, and mental health.

” … Humans were built mentally, physically and spiritually, for relationship. What does this mean? This means that in order to live well, one must love well. So whatever road you choose, whether it be going directly into the workforce, the military, the trades, college, or wherever you’re called, remember to love and value people.”


Anna Meinzen, valedictorian

” … I know a lot of you have also been involved with making Snider a better school in your own ways. And although my involvement has, at times, given me a considerable amount of stress and headaches, I know now that it was all worth it to prepare me for the future. I hope the same is true for all of you.

“In Mr. Grotemat’s government class, we were taught about the importance of self-efficacy when it comes to voting and government participation. In that context, self-efficacy is defined as your belief in your vote making a difference in an election. But this should not be applied solely to politics, it should be applied to life because, in the end, it is the belief that you can make a difference. Our experiences in high school have prepared us to leave behind the familiar with the confidence in our worth and in our abilities that comes with a good sense of self-efficacy.”

Dayra Sanchez, salutatorian

“Coming from an immigrant family, my graduation from high school is an achievement that I am very fortunate to accomplish. Not only is it a day of celebration for myself, but it is a testament to the effort my family has put forth to support me as well.

“A mi familia que me acompaña hoy – les doy gracias por el apoyo, porque sin ella, no estaría parada frente de ustedes ahora. Dedico este dia a ustedes, en especial a mi mama y mi papa. (To my family with me today – I thank you all for the support, because without it, I wouldn’t be standing here in front of you now. I dedicate this day to you, to my mom and my dad especially).

” …From today on, ‘the years start coming and they don’t stop coming,’ so all that’s left is for us to ‘hit the ground running.’ To close, I’ll continue the reference to the insightful writings of Mr. Greg Camp, a masterful lyricist and genius songwriter of the band Smash Mouth: There’s ‘so much to do, so much to see, so what’s wrong with taking the backstreets? You’ll never know if you don’t go. You’ll never shine if you don’t glow.’

“So here’s to ‘(getting) the show on, and (getting0 paid’ because ‘only shooting stars break the mold.’ So here’s to you, shooting stars. Congratulations Class of 2018!”


(The senior class president also gives a speech.)

Kathryn Hart, salutatorian

“When you come across a split in the road make sure to make the choice best for your own self-improvement or growth. Learning a new skill, world affair, or habit will increase your personal successes and in turn your self-esteem.

” … Despite, this claim to choose a path for personal growth, do not become so involved in yourself that you become oblivious to the needs of others. Self-improvement also includes developing confidence, patience and empathy to maintain relationships. Selfishness in these relationships, despite level of professionality, can and will deteriorate in the home and in the workplace.

“Being cooperative and active in the community should feel good on your conscious and never obligatory. Acts of kindness do not ever have to be large or cost money. Whether it is volunteering, donating or even just being an emotional support for someone, delivering kindness to others is the biggest form of self-improvement and should be the most gratifying payment to any action. Find a way that you can become a joy-giver to others that you can easily incorporate into your own life.”

Dora Carlisle, class president

“We’ve witnessed and gone through our own individual hardships and, as Archers, we have persevered through the tough times in order to walk across this stage and receive our diplomas.

“Fellow graduates, life can be unpredictable, and as we journey off on our own, I want you to be aware that all of our paths are different, although the destination may be the same. You may arrive before someone else, someone may make a wrong turn, or take a detour believing it may be quicker.

“The point is, do not base your path on someone else’s, and do not let obstacles hinder your successes. We are Archers, we set our own goals, we overcome all obstacles, we achieve, we surpass any and all expectations.”


Christopher Conley, salutatorian

“We all know life doesn’t always make it easy. Some of us here today have faced traumas and hardships that no one should have to endure. Still, we end up facing them anyway, so we may as well not face them alone.

“To everyone listening, if you remember one thing from what I have said today, please remember this: We are all in this together. Do not be afraid to seek recourse in the darkest hour.

“All of us have people in our lives who we care about, and we all have people who care about us. The least we can do for them is to choose to live happily, to choose to give life your very best. Hopefully, you will reap the harvest of freewill.”