The past four years were the best of times and worst of times, said Dakkota Morrow.
In a gold gown, she looked out Saturday over the 330 Amherst Steele High School graduates spanning the floor of the Cleveland State University Wolstein Center.
“This is the end of childhood for us but the beginning of everything life has in store for us,” she said. “Scary, right?”
Yes, there were scared eyes, tears shed, and last embraces behind the scenes as the Class of 2017 gathered to receive diplomas and say goodbye. There were also triumphant whoops, high fives, and victory dances.
Because, as Morrow said, while the past four years were filled with heartache and homework, they were also filled with dreams.
Class president Jacob Kelley also spoke to the fears graduates share as they take off their high school training wheels.
“Life is both scary and exciting all at once,” he said. “We can make it anything we want it to be and we have to do it right because we only get one chance. At this point in our lives, as we’re about to finally go out on our own, we are faced for the first time by the real world. From here on out it’s up to us. We’ve always been led by parents or teachers or other adults in our lives but now we can follow our own path and do things the way that we want to.”
Chemistry, biology, algebra, literature, civics — those can all be found in books. What students have really learned at Steele High is what kind of people to be, Kelley said.
“We have to take what we’ve learned and turn it into something wonderful, something great that will leave a lasting impact on the world around us. We have to go boldly into our futures and not be afraid to make the first mark on life, and we have to remember that from now on only we can decide what life is going to be. No one can tell us what we have to be or where we have to go.”
Principal Michael May told students they can carry the Amherst torch by acting in a way that makes others feel important, respected, and loved.
For May, the ceremony was a milestone. Four years ago, he was hired to lead Steele; the Class of 2017 is the first with which he has spent all four years learning and growing.
He told graduates to seek out opportunities to improve the condition of others. Be successful and have fun, but never forget that making positive decisions and serving others defines success, he said.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.