Royal Palm Beach High School bid farewell to more than 500 members of the Class of 2018 on Wednesday, May 16 at the South Florida Fairgrounds.
The RPBHS seniors were among the first students to graduate in front of new Palm Beach County School Superintendent Dr. Donald Fennoy, who encouraged the graduates to feel proud of all of the hard work that they put into their academics, but to never forget the people who have helped them achieve success.
“No one truly accomplishes anything that is worth accomplishing alone,” Fennoy said. “So, students, before this day is over, I want you to take a moment to say thank you to the people who helped you get here today.”
Fennoy also encouraged the graduating students to remain focused and present throughout their future lives. He encouraged them to keep using their energy and voices for the better.
“I am humbled and honored to stand before the Class of 2018. I have high hopes that [this] generation begins the next chapter, that [will] bring us all closer together despite our many differences,” he said. “So, don’t go too long these next few days without setting your alarms — getting out of bed with purpose is the most common denominator in achieving every goal for the rest of your lives.”
This year’s salutatorian, Olivia Tidd, graduated with a 5.01 HPA and a 3.96 GPA, as the recipient of the Cambridge Scholar Award and having accumulated nearly 300 hours of community service. Tidd will be attending Stetson University in the fall.
In her farewell speech Tidd echoed some of the words said by Fennoy in relation to the many aspects of life that divide people.
“In our short lives, we have witnessed and experienced numerous tragedies and hardships — terrorism, police brutality, gun violence and school shootings, along with a plethora of personal obstacles that each of us have faced,” Tidd said.
Through every obstacle, though, Tidd went on to explain, the graduating class lived through and witnessed history-making events together.
“Through each of these devastating events, we also have had the opportunity to witness history before our eyes. We’ve seen the election of the first black president of the United States, we’ve witnessed people come together to achieve goals and achieved goals of our own,” she said.
With this parallel, Tidd illustrated to her peers that through every bad thing that happens, individuals always have the power to create history and spread goodness in the world.
“Darkness will always be present on this imperfect planet, but each and every one of you has the power to be a light in the world and to make your own history,” she said. “Each of you has your own unique and individual unabridged high school story, and each of these stories fit perfectly together to create a large mosaic of our high school story. And that story ends today. I am proud to stand with each and every one of you. No matter how far life takes us apart from one another, [we] will forever be connected by this day and this school.”
Valedictorian Ethan Caballero graduated with an HPA of 5.10 and a GPA of 3.96. He is an Advanced Placement Award winner and co-founder of the school’s first STEM Robotics team. He will be attending the University of Florida in the fall, where he will major in engineering.
Caballero began his speech by thanking his mother. “Before I begin, I would like to thank the most important woman in my life, my mom. Thank you for everything you have done for me and for pushing me to better myself,” he said.
With his speech, Caballero encouraged his peers to approach life with a strong work ethic and with the dedication to always work hard for success.
“If there is one thing I want to get across here tonight it is that hard work pays off,” he said. “I can vouch for that. I will fully admit that I am not the smartest student at Royal Palm Beach High School. I wasn’t anything special before high school. I had speech impediments, and I wasn’t in gifted classes. Standing here tonight, I want you to know that you don’t have to be gifted in order to be successful.”
Caballero expressed that anything is possible for those willing to work hard and push themselves to the limits.
“As some of you may know, I worked at McDonald’s for over a year in order to pay for my first car. I’m telling you this because you don’t have to come from privilege or attend a fancy private school in order to be successful in life,” he said. “Do every job to the best of your abilities, even if that job is taking orders through a drive-through window. The things you work hard to obtain, on your own, will make you the most proud.”
RPBHS Principal Jesus Armas sent the graduates off with a similar message about hard work and dedication.
“Graduation is called commencement, because you all are about to commence the next phase of your lives. So what kind of commitment will it take for you all to go out into the world and realize your hopes and dreams?” he asked. “No matter what you do or where you go from here, I believe that there are three things that require total commitment so that you can have a truly fulfilling life: commitment to excellence in your profession, commitment to your friends and families, and commitment to society.”
Armas explained that each of the graduates’ commitment to excellence is what ultimately allowed them to achieve success.
“You are all here this evening because of your commitment and, when it comes to commitment, I believe that this class has needed more commitment this year, perhaps more than any other class has ever needed,” Armas said.
Armas added that the extraordinary events that happened throughout the seniors’ final year of high school truly tested the students in a non-academic way.
“In its senior year, the Class of 2018 had to persevere through the medieval-like fear that we would all go blind because of a solar eclipse, through the very real threat of the aftermath of a hurricane, through the institutional shake-up of a new superintendent, and, sadly, through the range of emotions of a nearby school shooting that has brought new meaning to the term school safety,” Armas concluded.
After the speakers, the new graduates crossed the stage to collect their diplomas, turned their tassels and headed out into the next phase of their lives.