Heartfelt, inspiring messages presented during 2022 GHS Commencement

The Grafton High School Class of 2022 celebrates with the traditional tossing of their caps during this year’s commencement ceremonies. (Photo courtesy of Taylor Wyatt)

GRAFTON—The Grafton High School Class of 2022 was forced to endure things they never thought they would due to a world-wide pandemic, but the adversities they faced only helped shape them into the young men and women they have become and will continue growing into.

To celebrate their successes as students, in an age-old tradition, the senior class gathered for a final time on Tuesday evening for commencement, before their friends, families and loved ones.

On a bright and sunny evening, the Class of 2022 made their way onto McKinney Field one final time, in a celebration that brought both laughter and tears. Their friends and family filled the bleachers to watch as they crossed the stage to claim their diplomas.

Principal Lori Shumaker welcomed the guests to the celebration, who were then serenaded by a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem, performed by the senior members of the 51st Edition of the Grafton High School Entertainers.

The class sat proudly and listened to the wise words offered by this year’s Valedictorian, Frederique Maloley, who offered encouragement to her peers.

First, I want to congratulate my class, which I am so proud to be a part of. It has been an absolute honor being a Bearcat with you all,” she voiced. “I firmly believe that though many of us may part ways today, once a Bearcat, always a Bearcat.”

She talked about the uniqueness of the Class of 2022 experienced yet overcame with a confidence and achievement seldom seen. They overcame fear of the unknown and persevered in spite of it.

“Fear is a part of life, and I’m sure that many of us are familiar with fear at this point in our lives,” Maloley said. “With uncertainty lying up ahead, it’s easy to let ourselves be consumed with it.”

She shared with her classmates that she was guilty of allowing fear to steal moments from her that she would never get back. 

“I will admit, I spent most of my senior year letting fear for the future take too much of my focus,” Maloley disclosed. “If this applies to you, I want to remind you today that you’re allowed to feel fear, but you’re going to have to face it. And that’s alright, because you’ve done it before, and you will probably do it again.”

She reminded the young men and women that she had spent the last four years with that they had what was needed to overcome their fear and own it.

“I want to remind you that a lot of our fears are just that, made up scenarios we allow to hang around and control us,” asserted Maloley. “So, goodbye fear! We’ve got this Class of 2022. We have overcome before and we will overcome again!”

Salutatorian Braydon McCullough attempted to instill in his classmates the importance of self in their journey into the future. 

“When I was first told that I would need to have something prepared for you all today, I had no clue what I was going to say. I did not know what I could leave you with that would be beneficial to your future,” he opened. “I could go on about how we survived high school through the COVID-19 pandemic or how our class has been through traumatic times together, but I’m sure most of you are tired of hearing about those things, so today I’m going to tell you part of my story.”

He recalled that after realizing he was different, he was beaten down verbally and faced adversity.

“I was all alone in my own head, praying for change, fighting off suicidal thoughts and just hoping I would make it past 16 years,” he revealed. “So, around two years ago, I finally stopped hiding. I embraced who I was. I soon realized that being accepting of myself was the best thing that ever happened to me. Now, you may wonder why I decided to tell you about this part of my life. It is not to gain your sympathy or to provoke any further hate, but instead to teach you something I wish I was taught when I was in fifth grade: the first step toward being successful in life is to embrace yourself and to love yourself as you are.”

McCullough reminded his classmates that their personal happiness would drive their future successes and not to allow outside influences and things they could not control to drag them down.

He encouraged his peers to stand firm in who they are and to seek out those people who will help them along their paths.

“As we leave here today, be more accepting of yourself. Find those friends that will become family like I did, and when you head out into the real world, never let a little bit of adversity put a halt to your goals and personal advancement,” McCullough imparted. “Thank you, Class of 2022, for the memories that were made within the walls of Grafton High School and congratulations because we finally made it!”

It was then Principal Lori Shumaker’s turn to address the class, and she shared with them a heartfelt message and lesson from her own mother.

“I try to look at a class’s personality and think about what I think those individuals need to hear, and I have three things that I want to share with you this evening. First, I want to tell you to cut yourself some slack. Let yourself have fun,” she addressed the graduates. “Remember that when you think you’re not winning the game, you’re not first, you’re not doing your best, somebody thinks you’re a champion.”

She encouraged the students to shift their perspective to realize that they are champions capable of amazing things. Her second point was to cut their loved ones some slack.

“If you do that, you will be surround by love and friendship and good people to work with,” Shumaker voiced. “The third thing I want to share with you is about overcoming and perseverance.”

To drive home her message, she told the class that in the same year her brother passed away, her mother was diagnosed with what they believed would be terminal cancer. When Shumaker would find herself in a rut and having a hard time, she would ask her mother how she found the strength to push forward.

“My mother was the wisest woman I will ever meet, and I share her words with you,” Shumaker told the students. “When life gets tough, you will have to go through it, but that is a place you visit it is not a place you live. You will live in the light. You have to live in the light, because if you do not live in the light, you will not be a light for anybody else. My hope for each and every one of you is that you spend your days living in the light!”

With that, Shumaker presented the Grafton High School Class of 2022 to Superintendent Christy Miller, who accepted and congratulated them on their graduation.

The students were called one by one to accept their diplomas, before turning their tassels and tossing their caps. 

The students celebrated their successes over the past four years, as their class song, One Republic’s “I Lived” played in the background. 

After the Alma Mater was sung, the newly graduated class exited the field, on a mission to follow their dreams.

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