‘Always make this community proud’

Class of 2018 graduates Hardin High School
Thursday, May 31, 2018

Photo by Andrew Turck

Graduate McKenna Rivera poses for a photo Sunday afternoon while standing with her fellow Hardin High School graduates near the end of the ceremony. Seventy-nine students walked across the stage that day to receive their diplomas.

Photo by Andrew Turck

Graduate Shelby Uffelman sings with the Hardin High School Choir after the speech portion of the ceremony. Students sang both “This is Me” by Mac Huff and “You Will Reap What You Sow” by Pepper Choplin.

Photo by Andrew Turck

Senior class speaker KayJah Twinn talks to students on the subjects of their sports success stories this year, along with the challenges they may face and how to overcome them.

Hardin High School’s valedictorian and salutatorian took different approaches Sunday afternoon when addressing 77 fellow graduates from their Class of 2018. Valedictorian Abigail Schaffer chose to take a more subdued route to prepare her classmates for potential challenges, while Salutatorian Nicole Nedens leaned toward an inspirational direction.

Schaffer, to begin her speech, told the gathered seniors she couldn’t guarantee “you’re all going on to do great things or that we’re the champions of the future.” She did, however, stress the importance of using one’s trials as learning experiences to “grow as a human in everything you do.”

Though Schaffer didn’t consider herself as a person with “real life experience,” she continued, she believed such growth could be spurred on through difficult, stressful or uncomfortable situations.

“As we continue on with our lives, they will hopefully be full of fun and exciting experiences,” she said. “But there inevitably will be those bad times. When those times do come, just remember that life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

Salutatorian Nicole Nedens, unlike Schaffer, took the idea of her class being destined for greatness as a foregone conclusion, and began her speech by thanking family members, teachers and the community. These people, she said, made the seniors “into the beautiful and knowledgeable people we are today.”

People who had doubts in the students’ abilities also helped, Schaffer mentioned, because they allowed them to push themselves to become even better.

“If I had to describe this class in a few adjectives, they would be: brilliant, outstanding, humorous, absurd and – most of all – dedicated,” Nedens said. “This dedication in every endeavor we strive for is what makes this class unique and definitely makes us a class to envy.”

Students from Hardin, she said, should remember where they come from and “always make this community proud.”

Both Nedens and senior class speaker KayJah Twinn made special note of student accomplishments – which included a significant number of athletic achievements.

“This was definitely Hardin High School’s year in sports,” Twinn said, “from the girls’ cross-country team winning state, to our boys’ basketball team who became state champions – with the girls taking second – to [making] a music department record of having 39 musicians and vocalists all perform at the state level, to our softball team making a little history in which they fought long and hard for a welldeserved spot to play at the state level.”

Most recently, Twinn added, the Hardin Bulldog tennis teams brought home first place for the boys at state in a three-way tie, while the girls took second.

To close her speech, Twinn read a poem that happened to include themes from both Schaffer’s and Nedens’ speeches. Though one might struggle in life, she read in the poem, “We rise above and we learn to love / Because that is what true joy is made of.”

“Look around you and see all these faces / We’re all walking through this life at our own paces,” she continued. “So wherever you are, you have to work with your placement / Whether it’s New York, Asia or your mom’s basement.”

History teacher Steven Hardt, who served as guest speaker for the event, gave the final address to students through two stories that emphasized not jumping to conclusions and the importance of hard work respectively.

In the first story, “The Cookie Thief” by Valerie Cox, a woman believes a man to be taking cookies from a bag she bought at the airport and gets progressively angrier. Eventually, the story is turned on its head and her assumption shown to be incorrect.

The second story concerned a school valedictorian who received a kiss on the cheek during his graduation in 1901 by a popular teacher named Miss Tillie Brown. When another student told her he wanted a kiss, she told him he must do something worthwhile to earn it.

This student became former U.S. President Harry S. Truman, who appointed the valedictorian – Charlie Ross – as his press secretary. His first message for Ross to deliver was to Brown: “How about that kiss? Have I done something worthwhile enough to receive it now?”

According to Hardt, he had faith the students could overcome the “bumps along the road” mentioned by Schaffer and attain the success in which Nedens believed.

“Graduating class of 2018,” he said, “it is with pride that I welcome you into the next stage of your lives.”

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