Class of 2014 graduates from Hannibal

All Hannibal graduation photos by Ashley M. Casey

Valedictorian  Elyssa Terry-DeRycke’s speech:

Ever since they started announcing who had the highest GPA in middle school, I wanted to be the one standing up here tonight to give a speech.

I never really had anything in mind that I wanted to tell my classmates, but I considered it to be such a great honor … and it is.

Over the weeks that I have had to prepare this speech, I have had to give a lot of thought as to what I wanted to talk about.  What are you supposed to say to the people that you have spent your entire life with?

Tonight, I am standing on this stage graduating with these incredible people, some of whom I have known since I was four years old, and it doesn’t feel real.  We are supposed to be starting the next chapter of our lives, entering the world as adults…all of those cliché statements I have heard in graduation speeches as I sat in the pit with the band over the past three years…and now, all those cliches start to mean something to me.

Do I feel like an adult?  Depends on the day.  I can drive, and I am relatively self-sufficient, however I still get giddy and excited over simple childish things, like new Disney movies and balloons.

That leads me to my first piece of advice to my classmates as they head out into the world:  Life is going to be crazy and hectic, but take the time to enjoy the little things.

You may never be wealthy, or have all of the things that you had hoped for in life, but if you take the time to remember the little things that made you happy when life was simple, you will be happy.  Being an adult doesn’t mean being boring.

Let the things that made you happy as a kid continue to make you happy as an adult.

My next piece of advice is to take every opportunity offered to you.  Life is too short to be living with regrets and thoughts of what might have been.

Life is going to be a crazy, scary, beautiful ride and it is time to stop being a by-stander and hop on.  Now, that doesn’t mean that you can do whatever you want and not worry about the consequences your actions may have on other people.

Always be considerate of the others in your life and remember who has always been there for you and always will be there for you, and don’t take advantage of those you think will never leave you, because one unexpected day, they might.

Here’s another. Take the time each day to do one nice thing for somebody.  If you can accomplish nothing else in a day, at least you can say you made someone smile, even if that is just by sharing your own smile.

Next, follow your dreams. I know that is probably going to be my most clichéd advice.

However, I think that it is something that we all need to be reminded of from time to time, not because we are afraid to follow our dreams, but because sometimes dreams change and we lose sight of what they are.  Sometimes it takes nearly giving up something to realize how important it is to us.

From the time I was five, my dream had always been to become a veterinarian, because I loved animals, and I still do, however I realized last year when I was looking to sign up for a New Visions program that would take me on my next step towards that dream, that maybe my dreams had changed.  In order to enroll in the New Visions medical program, I was asked to give up music, and then I realized that while it didn’t have to be for good, eventually I was going to be too busy for the thing I loved most in the world, and I had to reevaluate my dreams.  Now, a year later, I am going off to become a music teacher, and I am as happy as I have ever been, but I realize that my dreams could change again.  I don’t have to have it all figured out, I don’t have to have just one dream, and not all of my dreams have to be realistic or even come true for me, because that is how dreams are.  Not all of your dreams will probably come true, but don’t give up on them because you think they will only lead to disappointment.  If they are what you really want for yourself, try and don’t ever give up on them.

Finally, never forget where you came from. As much as some of us hate to admit it, this small, little town has been our home and it has helped shape us into the people we are today.

We all joke around about coming from Hannibal, but if you take the time to look at all our accomplishments as a school and a town, we have so much to be proud of as Hannibal graduates.

As I am slightly biased and a bit of a band geek, I am especially proud of the Senior High Band’s accomplishments.  This year alone we had a 73.3 percent retention rate for All-County Band Festival and sent 11 of our students to represent our school among the best of Oswego County.

Of those students, some were sent to Area All-State to represent the best  musicians of three counties, and of those, three, Alyssa Mann, Natasha Waloven, and I, went on to the New York State Band Directors Association to perform a concert among some of the best in the state.  Natasha was also an alternate for the even higher honor of playing at Conference All-State, which is the best of the best.  Of course, I also have to mention the band’s award of a gold medal at NYSSMA Majors this year.

Our school has some of the best artists around, with many ribbons and awards won at art shows over the years and some by our very own seniors and exchange students like Carolina and Hanz.  Walking through our school you can see evidence of this on our walls and there is no denying that that is something to be proud of.

Though I was never really an athlete, it is hard not to be aware of the success of our athletic teams and the individuals in our school. Over the past four years we have won league championships, captured a Section 3 title in basketball and cross country, and sent students off to represent Hannibal in state competitions.  Among those athletes was Ben Slate, who is an incredible runner, Gabrielle Griffin, our salutatorian and a three-sport athlete, Greg Hadcock, Dustin Oulette, and Dennis Spaulding, who all received their 100 wins in wrestling, (with Greg receiving the recognition of having the second most wins ever for our school), and Devin Sorell, who is Oswego County’s Female Athlete of the Year.

 This is the school we come from and these are the things we should look back on, in ten years, and at our future class reunions with a smile.  These were some of our proudest moments and, while, yes, there are many more to come, don’t ever forget these times and the people who helped make these memories.

I know a lot of you are jumping with joy at the idea of leaving Hannibal, and I am among you, and others are sad at the thought of leaving all that you have ever known. I am among you as well. Some of you may have even decided that you don’t want to go anywhere anytime soon, but I ask that you always look back on your high school days with a smile.

I asked many of my classmates to help me out with this speech, because I wanted this to be about all of us, and not just end up talking about my own high school experiences.

One student, Meagan Gage, came through for me with a very fitting quote by Dr. Seuss that I want to end with:

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

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