SHERIDAN — “I’ll be gone in a day or two,” students sang midway through the Sheridan High School graduation ceremony Sunday afternoon at Homer Scott Field.
The words belted out from A-ha’s tune “Take On Me” applied to members of the graduating class on the cusp of a new part of their lives.
Before they began post-grad life, students were celebrated for the past four years of schooling. The previous week featured less than ideal weather, but sunshine poked through the clouds as more than 200 seniors received their diplomas.
SHS principal Brent Leibach welcomed the audience and complimented the group of seniors.
“I don’t know what else we can say besides phenomenal,” Leibach said. “… (It is) truly an amazing group.”
Leibach mentioned some of the awards and accomplishments the senior class received before noting that the most important thing involves what the students do moving forward and they type of people they become.
SHS English teacher Laine Parish’s commencement speech touched on the same idea. He focused on having an awareness about life and being present to all its ups and downs.
Taking his cues from writers David Foster Wallace and Albert Camus, Parish said the days ahead would include challenges, but if students looked around and took in the good and bad, their lives would contain more meaning.
“You will experience pain,” Parish said. “You will experience defeat. You will love and not be loved. You will care and not be cared for. You will try your very best, and things will just unravel anyway … Things fall apart, but — here’s the lesson — don’t go on autopilot. Don’t shut down. Don’t just exist … Experience those moments.”
Parish said the class of 2019 featured exceptional students that can likely overcome whatever is thrown their way, but his biggest worry is they might not bring joy or passion to those obstacles.
“Thinking about life this way, as a repetitive set of tasks to accomplish, is dangerous,” Parish said.
He hopes graduates do not spend too much time worrying about their futures and forget they are alive.
“Learn to bring the joy to work, because life will bring the work,” Parish said. “Mix the good with the bad, because life will bring the bad. It is up to you to bring the good to that equation.”
Valedictorian Riis Card also noted the potential positives and negatives that lie ahead. He talked about the idea of planting trees, both literally and figuratively.
Card said generations before them planted trees that provided shade for students to flourish. He urged everyone to plant a tree for a topic about which they or others are passionate.
“Plant a tree for education, and plant a tree for equality,” Card said. “Plant a tree for poverty alleviation, and plant a tree for peace. Plant a tree to do good things.”
Card noted that their generation has the potential to expand life to new planets but also to destroy the current planet. He hopes they can plant trees and contribute to growing a forest for future generations to develop.
“Let’s not be remembered by bullets or by terror or by industry or by nuclear proliferation,” Card said. “Let’s choose to be remembered for something beautiful. Let’s plant a tree for humanity.”
Throughout his speech, Parish reminded students of their humanity. He talked about the differences between existing and being, the disparities of living versus being alive. He urged students to be active participants in life while trying to excel in their future careers.
“I hope you choose to be aware,” Parish said. “I hope you are alive and not just living. I hope you are being and not just existing. I hope you find joy in your success. I hope that instead of worrying about what comes after this speech, you enjoy the friend sitting next to you and your family you’ll see afterwards. I hope you’re repeating to yourself, from this moment on, ‘This is life. This is life.’”
With the sun illuminating the ceremony, graduates closed this chapter of their lives and stepped ahead to their bright futures.