2012 Area High School Commencement Address: Parents, teachers, students can be proud of the class of 2012

By Wally Brown, Guest Columnist

I would like to start out by letting the class of 2012 know how honored and touched I am that they chose me to speak. You are allowing me one last teachable moment and a chance to interact with all of you one last time. I hope I don’t let you down.

Each one of you is like a piece in a puzzle and I had a chance to watch the pieces being put together to form the class of 2012.

Many people like to say “kids today are different.” In my psychology class the last eight years I started the class by showing the movie “The Breakfast Club.” In the movie the students are asked “Who do they think they are?”

The movie explores what students go through during their school lives. It shows that kids are only different today because the world is different today. But they basically still have the same needs of being accepted and wondering if they are going to be successful. The class of 2012 really is no different than when your parents went to school.

Parents, grandparents, relatives and friends of the class of 2012, I have a story to tell you about this wonderful class. From the first time Mr. Stumpf introduced me to them in his seventh grade math class, I believe we had a special bond. I remember going back to my classroom and having it dawn on me that this group of students would be my last class. I went back and let them know that and I can still remember all those little smiling faces thinking “Who is this guy?” I do believe though on that day, those students took it upon themselves to be special to me.

As I followed them the next year to Mr. Dahmen’s classroom, they would tell me that they were going to be my last class. I lost touch with them in ninth grade, but finally I would have most of them again as my students in 10th grade. Let’s just say we had our growing pains in 10th grade, but none that were so terrible we could not or would not overcome them. Their junior year, I was able to have many of the students that I had not had the year before and we began to bond tighter.

Finally, this year, I was able to have had everyone, but some young man named Ben Huffman. By the way who is this Ben Huffman? Could you please stand up? (Hi I am Mr. Brown and I just wanted to say hi and I am  sorry I did not  have  the  chance   to  ever  be  your  teacher!)  The point I am trying to make is that I watched this fine group of young people develop into hard working, very special, caring and responsible young adults. From 10th grade on I could count on someone from this class to brighten up my day and make me smile.

I can’t count all the funny and enjoyable moments or awkward questions I was asked, but (so many times funny) that I have spent with this group. I am a better person today because of them. I hope I was able to bring the joy to  each  of  you  that  you  have brought  to me.

I too am finally graduating myself. You see I have been going to school and doing the same routine for the past 52 years. So we are more alike than you may think. Let me explain:

1) Number one question: So what are you going to do now?

2) We both thought this day would never come and as it gotten closer we thought “where did all the time go?”

3. Over the years we had our ups and down but finally are making it.

Finally, whether we like to admit it or not we are scared for what lies ahead. Your worry is about new careers and maybe a family.

I worry that I will just become old. I have never felt old up to this point.

Parents you should all be very proud of a job well done. I have learned without a good foundation the house will fall and all of you have built a great foundation for your children. For all of you who are my former students I am very proud of the job you have done with your children.

I could literally tell you something special about each of your children because each of them these past three years has done something remarkable in front of me or I heard about something that made me think, “Wow that’s really great.”

My fellow teachers, you too should feel proud, as you have challenged and developed these young minds to be who they are. Pierz is very fortunate to have so many outstanding teachers who truly care about their students. I have been blessed to work with them for the past 26 years.

Class, I will not mention any of you in particular because so many of you have stepped up and helped me out, but I do want you to know I appreciate what you have done for me without asking for anything in return. I would never want to offend any of you so to all of you thank you for being so helpful.

My son Derrick, who is a teacher, found some great quotes that have been said at different commencement exercises. Anyone that knows me knows I have no new ideas. I just take others and use them to the best of my ability. So I would like to share some thoughts that have made sense to me and knowing you the way I do, I hope it makes sense to you.

First about what lies ahead:

“If having things turn out the way you wanted them to is the measure of a successful life, then some would say I’m a failure. The important thing is not to be bitter over life’s disappointments. Learn to let go of the past and recognize that every day won’t be sunny. And when you find yourself lost in the darkness of despair, remember it’s only in the black of night that you can see the stars and those stars will lead you back home. So don’t be afraid to make mistakes, to stumble and fall, because most of the time the greatest rewards come from doing the things that scare you the most. Maybe you’ll get everything you wished for, or maybe you’ll get more than you could have ever imagined. Who knows where life will take you … the road is long and in the end the journey is the destination.”

In regards to graduating, moving on and this most likely being the last time that all of the senior class will be in one place at the same time:

“Most of your life will be a series of images, they pass you by like towns on the highway, but sometimes a moment stuns us as it happens and we know that this instance is more than a fleeting image, we know that this moment and every part of it will live on forever.”

Finally, “Now is the time for you to shine. The time when your dreams are within reach and possibilities vast. Now is the time for all of you to become the people we have always dreamed of being. This is your world. You’re here. You matter. The world is waiting.”

“Do whatever makes you happy but do it now. Live life for the moment because everything else is uncertain, take advantage of what’s right in front of you.”

Not many people can say they got to do what they loved to do for 34 years, but I did. Interacting with young people, making them all feel special is what I love to do. I hope I was able to do that more than not. There is nothing like being in a classroom where all the students are engaged in learning and seeing the light come on as they got it, or sitting around in joking and laughing with your students. You were not only my students but also my friends. You made my last three years here at Healy High worth coming every day.

Someone once asked what I thought my legacy here at Pierz would be. Ever since that day it has been on my mind.

At first I thought it was developing the Pierz volleyball program. Then I thought it was providing the students a chance to go D.C. and New York City. Although I am very proud of doing those things, I finally realized my legacy was the impact I have had on my students over the years.

When I think of how many of my students that I have been close to and have succeeded in life, that is my legacy. That is what I am most proud of. I can’t wait to see what this class of 2012 will turn out to be.

Students. You know what this means. A perfect example of “operant conditioning.” I have had a tradition of celebrating birthdays and other events in class with Dum Dum suckers. So here goes one last time. Enjoy!!!

To the class of 2012, thank you again for this great opportunity, may God bless all of you and good night my good friends.

So now I am going to “Disengage.”

Wally Brown is a retiring teacher who gave one of the commencement addresses at the Pierz Healy High School graduation ceremony.