Roaring Fork HS grads carry ‘dandelion seeds of change’ into the world
It’s easy to feel powerless as today’s high school graduates enter a chaotic world, Roaring Fork High School valedictorian Fiona Laird acknowledged in addressing her classmates during graduation ceremonies in Carbondale Saturday.
“But I promise you, you’re not (powerless),” she said in offering words of encouragement to take responsibility for solving the world’s problems.
Sure, graduation day is far removed from when they were 6 and dreamed of one day becoming princesses, or maybe president, Laird said.
From the 911 terrorist attacks that happened “just as we were learning how to talk,” to more recent events like the Aurora theater and Sandy Hook school shootings and the Boston Marathon bombings, their young lives have seen one tragedy after another; not to mention environmental threats pronounced by floods, fires, rising sea levels and record high temperatures, she observed.
“Somewhere along the way we started feeling the limits of our power and our possibilities,” Laird said. “We are going out into a world that seems to be full of hate and anger and chaos. But I believe we have a responsibility to solve the problems that our world faces.”
Laird invoked the words of abolitionist Harriet Tubman: Always remember you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars and to change the world.
Like dandelion seeds, Laird said of the official Carbondale town flower, “we’ll float off … and land across the country and around the world. I hope that wherever you land, wherever you go, you realize the value in each of us.”
RFHS Principal Drew Adams noted that the 69 members of the class of 2016 have already made their mark on the community by working to make their school 100 percent solar-powered with the installation of a large solar array earlier this year.
This year’s Roaring Fork graduates also were awarded more than $1 million in scholarships, and had more than $2 million worth of offers.
Giving the commencement address was popular former English and journalism teacher Krystal Wu, who encouraged her former students to open up and share their heartaches; “to embrace discomfort and push yourself to be vulnerable.”
Wu offered her “three rules of the heart:
• “To live and love with such openness and vulnerability that your heart is always at risk of being broken;
• “When someone or something inevitably bruises your heart, don’t try to escape the pain, instead, embrace the heartbreak;
• “Do not succumb to hard-heartedness, rather stretch your heart to its full capacity by feeling too much and loving too hard.”
Wu said one of her favorite memories teaching at Roaring Fork was the “share your story” exercise she had her students participate in. Inevitably, a few students would completely open up about things like addiction, eating disorders, failure, shame, to name a few, she said.
“The risk they took created space for the rest of us to be brave,” Wu said. “It taught me that one person’s vulnerability can ignite courage in many others.”
Taking her cue, this year’s “outstanding student,” Jimmy Serrano, opened up to his classmates about his own struggle with depression.
“It’s different for everyone,” he said. “For me, it led to this wide philosophical questioning of the perceptions that have become my own reality.”
In moments of despair, though, Serrano said he always knew he could look to his friends, family and others who supported him.
“You are cared for subtly by everyone in this room, and I think that’s a beautiful thing,” Serrano, who is bound for Stanford University, said.
Co-valedictorian Emily Mata urged her classmates to go beyond checking the next task off the list.
“Life cannot be put into boxes, so don’t try,” Mata said. “Let it take you by your shoulders and turn you around and show you a new world full of beautiful things that you would have never seen if we were all walking in the same direction.”
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