The Warren New Tech Knights were given three keys to success in life—be honest, invest in your intellect and improve the world around you—as they prepared to go out into the world during commencement exercises Saturday morning.
State Sen. Erica Smith gave the Class of 2019 that advice during her address to graduates, beginning with a tale about a CEO who conducted a contest to determine who would lead his company following his retirement. The person chosen was the one who seemingly failed the contest, but in the end was the only honest employee.
“There are no shortcuts in life. Be authentic. Don’t ever forsake integrity to try to compete with the world,” Smith said.
In telling the class members to invest in their intellect, Smith told them to always keep a book in their hand and continue to grow and learn.
“There is nothing impossible with the right force on your side,” she said. “Too many times, there are peers around us that invest in the wrong thing.”
Smith said that she bought her first suit as an engineer when she was age 24. Up to that point, her mother had made all of her suits, and people talked about her because of it.
Smith gave examples of name brand fashions.
“People can dress head to toe, but if they don’t have anything in their brains, in their head, they are limited to where they can go,” she said, to rousing applause.
Smith’s final advice was for graduates to invest in improving the world around them.
“Shirley Chisholm says service is the rent you pay for being on this earth,” Smith said, paraphrasing a quote from the late Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to Congress. “The blessings are so we can be a blessing to someone else. It’s up to us to be the ones to solve the world’s problems. We’ve got to make sure that we are leaving the place better than we found it.”
In giving the tribute to teachers and staff, Anna Brauer thanked the teachers for helping members of the graduating class become the individuals they are today and preparing them for the challenges that life will bring.
“Your guidance has helped us acknowledge what we are capable of and has taught us the importance of perseverance and dedication,” she said.
Brauer said the students had learned time management, collaboration, leadership and creativity, as well as the New Tech motto of trust, respect and responsibility.
She said the teachers had shown the students hard work and fun times, how to get work done, had been encouraging, patient, helpful, engaging, and had worked to open students’ minds to the different possibilities of learning and ways to receive information.
“Today we thank you for the lessons you have taught us, the time you have given us and the joyful memories we will forever cherish. A teacher takes a hand, opens a mind and touches a heart,” she said. “Your influence will always be in our lives.”
Tyler Champion gave the tribute to parents and guardians, adding a little humor as he described an end to parents receiving emails about missing student assignments and sitting in the principal’s office because of another teenage drama.
He also acknowledged the sacrifices of parents and guardians, who rarely received a thank you.
“You never got a paycheck, but you did your job with pride and distinction,” he said. “Today we salute your commitment. We would not be graduating today if you were not there to provide the mom moments or the dad talks.”
Even when their students rebelled, Champion said, their parents and guardians told them what they needed to hear, rather than what they wanted to hear.
“There were times we had no idea what we wanted, but you knew what success looked like. We did this together,” he said. “Your words of wisdom will always be in our minds.”
Khadijah Pharr said that goodbyes aren’t forever in giving the tribute to students.
“I love the young adults that we have become,” she said. “It is time for us to see the real world, and be exposed to many different situations.”
She told her classmates to not let others’ opinions drown out their inner voices.
“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition,” she said. “If there are any today that will cry, those tears you shed are tears of satisfaction of ending a new chapter to only begin a new one.”
As diplomas were awarded, Crystal Hedgepeth, mother of New Tech Knight Christy Worley, accepted her daughter’s diploma on her behalf. Worley was tragically killed on Aug. 12, 2017. A single white rose reserved the seat among the graduates where Worley would have been seated.
Members of the Class of 2019, New Tech staff and others participating in commencement wore gold angel pins in Worley’s memory.
Among the graduating class, two students graduated summa cum laude, with highest honor; three students graduated magna cum laude, with great praise; and two students graduated cum laude, with praise.