Members of the Board of Trustees, Dr. Hefner, Mrs. Bryant, faculty, family, friends, and members of the Class of 2020, I am incredibly honored to stand before you today as salutatorian and extend my welcome to my fellow graduates as well as their friends and families. Additionally, I would like to thank the faculty, staff, and distinguished guests for putting forth the time and effort to make this all happen, especially when considering the current lovely circumstances.
It is no secret that I am surrounded by a group of fellow graduates that is full of the most intelligent, athletic, compassionate, and all around talented individuals that anyone would be honored to meet. Whether you are like me and have been a Panther your entire life or you moved here later in life it is undeniably evident that these traits shine in a way that makes this class something special, in a way that unites us through our differences.
Through this unity I found close friends and found a place for myself in our highly successful band program which provided me with some of the most cherished memories of my life. The people there molded me into who I am today and I would be lost if it was not for them. We can all relate to this feeling, the feeling of fitting in like a piece of a greater puzzle, the feeling of belonging. What is interesting is that at Batesburg-Leesville this feeling is not exclusive to members of your sport, club, or other activity, but rather is shared with all students and alumni. We all have this sense of togetherness that allows us to rely on each other in hard times. As a result we as a class are not left to deal with these hard times alone as we are able to lean on our fellow classmates to hold us up when we cannot go on ourselves.
On behalf of the Class of 2020 I would like to thank everyone who supported us as we grew as people, began to chase our dreams, and those who made it possible to choose our paths. Our parents, teachers, and friends are why we are here today and will forever be an integral part of our next leap forward. Personally I would like to thank Mr. Brown, Mr. Funderburk, and Mrs. Terlizzi for supporting my passion in music. I would also like to thank Coach Thomas, Coach Harvey, Mr. Powell, Mrs. Cook and Mrs. Gordon for pushing me to do my best academically. Last, but certainly not least, I would like to thank my parents, little sister, and grandparents for supporting me every step of the way. I could not have done all of this without you all.
To close I would like to put into perspective how Batesburg-Leesville ties us together despite our inevitably diverging paths through life. A doctor, a soldier, an artist, and an engineer are not commonly seen as one in the same. One night, through either coincidence or methodical planning, they are all comfortably seated around a table talking about their lives. The doctor has saved countless lives, the soldier has traveled the world to make his country a safer place, the artist has made countless pieces to brighten up the world, and the engineer has designed and built infrastructure that keeps the cities running. Eventually one of them brings up their more youthful years, a time when things seemed so much simpler and this causes something unforeseen to happen.
Despite their differences they are overcome by the same melancholy memories of being a Panther. The engineer relives the excitement of a Friday night football game and can almost feel the crisp fall air on his skin once again. The artist jokes about how his favorite science teacher was Bill Nye and how he can still recite the entire opening song. The soldier reminisces of the sweet taste of watermelon after playing hard during field day in the heat of a South Carolina summer. And the doctor, she reflects on how far both her and her friends have come ever since that first day of school where they sat in the yellow giraffe hall in anticipation of class starting.
This is all because this is not just a table of people from various careers, but instead this is a table of old friends. They all can remember the days where their paths were one and they walked it together, side by side, hand in hand. That is the impact that Batesburg-Leesville had on me and my fellow graduates: we are tied together through these experiences no matter how far we may stray away from each other in life. The message of all this is that you can look towards the future with hope and ambition, but when your path through life becomes steep and your legs become fatigued do not be afraid to look back. Look back and do not let the fog of time cover where all of our paths once crossed. Remember that only when you lose sight of where your path crosses with those you hold close will the winding roads of life seem lonely.
Thank you all for the memories and I wish you all the best in life. I hope you all enjoy the rest of the ceremony, and goodnight.