Andrew Vontell stood Saturday before the Amherst Steele High School Class of 2018 as its valedictorian.
Confident at the lectern, he told classmates not to value themselves based on grades but on the human qualities that bind graduates together.
Here is an excerpt from his commencement speech:
“As a whole, I think that our class is an outstanding group of individuals. We have impressive scholars, amazing artists, musicians, choir, future members of the armed forces, and athletes who will play sports at the collegiate level. Each and every one of us here has such an impressive accumulation of knowledge and experience, and we’re all about to embark on various paths in life.
“In his book, ‘Informal Sociology,’ William Bruce Cameron wrote that ‘not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted.’ I think this quote applies to us because of the heavy implications of the numbers and statistics that appear to define us. We are quick to use these measures to put value on ourselves and also to compare ourselves to each other.
“Throughout our schooling, we are constantly being graded, evaluated, and then scrutinized based upon these results. Unfortunately, after years of this, we can forget that there is more to us than those numbers. We must remind ourselves that the numbers are relative and do not actually define who we are. For example, our high school GPA and our ACT scores have been significant but once we leave here today they will be replaced with different measures of performance.
“Although we have worked hard to achieve desired results, they are just a small part of our identity. What really counts is the knowledge and experience that we have gained in and outside of the classroom. In our extracurricular activities we’ve learned the value of teamwork, building each other up, accepting constructive criticism, and how to grow from it. Our academic work built within us characteristics such as time management skills, communication skills, and a strong work ethic. All of these elements plus our memories and accomplishments truly define who we are.”
Vontell will attend Ohio State University in the fall to study biochemistry and hopes to one day work in the medical research field.
He told the News-Times his dream is to contribute to the cure for diseases such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.