The choice is to stand down or rise to challenges

By Katie Schmitt, Guest Columnist

Well, we made it. Our senior year of high school is finally complete. For 13 years we have been preparing for this moment. We have made choices that define who we are, we have chosen opportunities that allow us to grow and we have faced challenges that have made us think twice. But throughout all of this, we have succeeded.

Now, as we finish this chapter in our lives we begin a new one. We have reached a point where we will be challenged in ways we may have never imagined. We have the choice to stand down or to rise to these challenges. But so many factors will influence our decisions.

A large factor is fear. Sometimes, it seems that fear holds us back, but it is important to know it does not need to. Every single day, we have the unique opportunity to overcome our fears and work toward conquering our dreams. Fear should be an emotion that never holds us back, but only pushes us forward to become more courageous in our actions.

A fearful moment I experienced during my time as a student here was in seventh grade when running track. I would become so nervous before my race I would be on the verge of vomiting. One time Mrs. Makela noticed this and came up to me to ask if I was nervous. I looked at her with big, pleading eyes and said, “Yeah, and I don’t feel very good either.” Then she told me something that caught me off guard, she said that if I wasn’t nervous and scared she would be worried about me.

Sometimes feelings of discontent and fear can be positive, helping us to achieve more and to be the best we can be.

A second factor is our character. You have to ask yourself who you are, what you stand for. Your character is what will define you and make you different from the person sitting next to you. It is what will help you to get that job you want.

Our character is developed through different aspects of each of our lives. Growing up on a dairy farm we claimed a lot of things built character. Like when it is 95 degrees out and the hay is dry with rain on the way, your character strengthens as your muscles do, as you climb up into the hayloft to unload the ninth rack of small square bales. Or when it is 25 below and even colder with the wind yet the livestock need to be fed so you put on enough layers to look like a walking snowman and you head out to face the cold.

Although your experiences are not exactly the same as mine, we all have these moments that build our character and stay with us forever.

Then there are our past experiences. Like character, they influence our every decision. We all learn from our past failures and successes, so it is up to us to remember what has happened in the past so we are better fit to make good choices now and in the future. “When we were in elementary school, recess was the highlight of the day for most of us. While most of the girls played on the swings and jungle gym and most of the boys played football, a few of us girls found ourselves drawn to the football field to join the boys. A girl playing football was never the “cool” thing to do but I did it anyway, and playing football with the boys taught me to never accept “no” as an answer simply because I was a girl. Sometimes doing things that are not “cool” and taking the path less traveled can be a good choice. It allows you to make your own unique experiences.

So whether we are sitting in our first-ever college class next fall or doing a job interview, we have to remember that the fear we feel will push us to be successful. We have to remember that these challenges we are facing are there to help us grow in our character, and to always rise to these challenges because we have learned from like decisions in our past. We have to search for new opportunities, and grasp and hold onto every single one that comes our way.

This is a turning point in our lives. Right now, we have the chance to redefine who we are. I want to see each and every one of you take that challenge and succeed. We are the future, so watch out.

Katie Schmitt is the valedictorian her class and gave one of the commencement addresses during graduation ceremonies at Royalton High School.