Wellington High School sent 569 graduates into the world Tuesday during its commencement exercises at the South Florida Fairgrounds Expo Center.
“Over the next several days in Palm Beach County, over 11,300 graduates will walk across this stage and receive their diplomas,” School District of Palm Beach County Superintendent E. Wayne Gent said. “They will have earned over $90 million and counting in scholarships.”
Gent told graduates that they will be starting a new way of life in which they will have to make decisions, solve problems and do things as an adult. “The decisions you make the next few years, you will spend the rest of your life managing those decisions,” he said.
Student Government Association President Terah Kalk encouraged class members to go outside their comfort zone. “Make as many mistakes as you can,” Kalk said. “Learn something from every person you meet. Listen to others, but don’t ever lose your own voice, and take into consideration that time only moves in one direction, and nothing is permanent.”
Quoting the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Kalk said: “Here’s to the crazies, the misfits, the rebels, the drum beaters. You can glorify or vilify them, but the one thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward. The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”
Salutatorian Marc Nebb said he disagreed with author Kurt Vonnegut, who said, “True terror is to wake up one morning and discover your high school class is running the country.”
“I can’t help but find myself blessed,” Nebb said. “We as a nation have such an eclectic group of talented individuals to change this world. Class of 2013, look back on high school as fondly as I do. Class of 2013, be the movers and shakers of this world I know all of you can be. Class of 2013, remember our motto, which will echo on through the years — We are the lean, mean Class of 2013.”
Valedictorian Ali Sina Booeshaghi said that regardless of whether the graduating class members are going to college or entering the work force, he believed Wellington High School had prepared them well.
“Next year, as we enter college, let’s all party hard, after study sessions, of course, and make new friends and meet new people, and overall enjoy life,” he said. “Let’s make sure to enjoy life to its fullest and every day enjoy the sun, hang out with friends, read a book. Fifty Shades of Grey was pretty good, but that’s what my aunt told me.”
As the final chapter of their high school lives has ended, Booeshaghi said they as a whole will dictate their own futures.
“We will determine whether the blank page that sits on our desk ready to be filled in will turn into the country’s next bestseller,” he said. “We must not settle for mediocrity or the path of triviality, for these paths have no end. They simply go in circles, never allowing us to achieve our goals, even if your goal is to lick your elbow. Yeah, I see you there in the back. Let me tell you it’s biologically impossible.”
Booeshaghi said there are two ways to approach life, as a victim or gallant fighter. “We must decide whether to act or react, deal the cards or play with a stacked deck,” he said. “If we don’t decide which way to play life, in the end it always plays us. I know the Class of 2013 is the gallant fighter. I know the Class of 2013 is the dealer, and I know we will all be winners.”
Class President Austin Sweeney said he was impressed with the diverse goals of Wellington High School’s Class of 2013, and likened the class to its mascot the wolverine, which is known for its tenacity.
“I know we’re all eager to be on our own and make something of ourselves, but I want you all to realize something,” he said. “Since day one of freshman year, school has told us to keep our eye on the prize, get good grades, graduate, get a job, go to college, whatever. It kept us focused on the destination.”
But he said the destination is not the important part. “What makes us who we are is the journey to that destination,” Sweeney said. “Four years at Wellington High has definitely been a journey. I know that every one of us has a different dream, a different goal and a different path, but I’m confident that we will all find success in our own ways because we all started this journey as Wolverines, and none of us will ever give up.”
Principal Mario Crocetti urged class members to reach outside the groups they identify with in order to enjoy life to its fullest and improve the world. Crocetti referred to social identity theory, which says that a person’s sense of who he or she is often is based on the group or groups the person belongs to. “It gives us a sense of identity and pride in the groups to which we belong,” Crocetti said. “Our self-esteem and self-image are often tied to these groups. This can lead us to believe that our group is better than any other group, which can lead us to that ‘us-versus-them’ mindset.”
Once people believe that their group is better than any other group, it becomes very easy to denigrate those who are not part of their group, he said. “Our history books are filled with accounts of violent factions of country against country, class against class, and sects against sects,” Crocetti warned.
He said people need only to turn on the news to hear about racism, sexism and other “isms” that prevent people from enjoying a better quality of life.
“It doesn’t need to be this way,” he said. “Today, we are a perfect example of how thousands of people can come together, people who represent different religions, nationalities, races, genders, political parties, come together for a common cause. Today that common cause is to support, acknowledge and applaud our loved ones on this special day.”