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VIDEO: ‘If you want to go far, go together’

by Tom Chillemi

The Middlesex High School Class of 2017 heard some illuminating ideas from graduation’s featured speaker Aaron Bland, a 2001 MHS graduate, who founded Solid Future Incorporated.

“You have the ability right now as a D student or an A student or as someone just happy to be here, to completely and totally shape your world” Bland told the 57 graduates and those who filled the John S. Clements Memorial Gymnasium on Saturday, June 10, for the 68th commencement exercises.

Bland told the class that by graduating, they have done something “millions of people in this world won’t get the chance to do. So what are you going to do for this world? It belongs to you.”

Bland implored graduates to “be your universe. Never be afraid to be who you uniquely are, even when the world seeks to change you.”

Question negative thinking, he said. “Choose whose universe you want to align your stars with. And, if that choice does not serve to increase your light, choose something else.”

Bland quoted an African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Seek others who are uplifting. Do not be swayed by failures and disappointments and never give up, he said. “Consolidate your power with those whose light shines even brighter than yours. The best way I have learned to do this is by looking higher than my eyes can see and walking in that direction. I have stumbled, my eyes have gone crossed and at times looking to that light has dried out my eyes. But keep going.”

Middlesex Public School Superintendent Dr. Peter Gretz summed up his remarks advising the graduates to maintain “integrity” as their life changes. “Dream big, don’t quit and believe in yourself, but first and most importantly, know who you are,” said Dr. Gretz.

“Life will continue to throw you curve balls. Your dreams will change. You don’t have control over any of that,” said Dr. Gretz. “What you can control, and what does not have to change, is your integrity.”

Help one another
Valedictorian Ja’Mel Reed told his fellow students, “The world is too big and too harsh of a place to crawl and struggle alone. We’ve got to remember when we go on with the rest of our lives that we cannot carry this burden alone. Having people there who believe in you, help you and love you will always keep you from crashing.”

Salutatorian Jason Chen quoted a Chinese saying, “A flower may bloom again, but a person will never be young again.” He said this saying reflects how precious his time has been at MHS.

MHS principal Jeannie Duke asked the graduates to “treat people you come across as friends, live the golden rule, fear nothing except to waste the moment.” She also told students to put down their devices and “come from behind the screen and live . . . enjoy every moment.”

Awards and recognition
Each year graduating Middlesex High School seniors are voted upon by the faculty to receive the Honor Award (one male and one female) and Citizenship Award (one male and one female).

The criteria for the honor awards are exemplary personal integrity, academic excellence in a wide range of studies, a willingness to take initiative in school matters, a commitment to establishing goals and perseverance in their accomplishments and responsible personal behavior.

The 2017 Honor Award recipients, Caleigh Kohel and Ja’Mel Reed, were announced during the June 10 commencement exercises at MHS. It also was noted that Reed never missed a day of school.

The Citizenship Award criteria includes commendable conduct, excellent attendance, active participation in school and community affairs, scholarships consistent with their academic ability, respect and concern for the rights of other, and devotion to the school community and nation. The Citizenship Award recipients were Gabby Taylor and Tanner Johannsen.

Dean David Keele of Rappahannock Community College took the stage to present Zakara Blanding with her MHS diploma. Blanding, who is 15 years old, also has earned an associate’s degree from RCC during her high school career.

During the graduation ceremony, seniors were acknowledged who attended Bridging Communities, which is a regional career technical education school in New Kent where students specialize in a trade while earning college credits and industry certifications.

The students included Carnell Bagby, Lynne Burch, Taylor Dawson, Tanner Johannsen, Eric Kane, Will Leggett, Elliott Redmon and Andres Rowe.

Another group of seniors recognized at graduation attended the Chesapeake Bay Governor’s School and took all of their math and science classes through Rappahannock Community College at Glenns, and earned college credits in those classes.

They include Molly Brown, Shannon Brown, Jason Chen, Ja’Mel Reed and Gabby Taylor.

The 57 members of the Middlesex High School Class of 2017 celebrate their graduation on Saturday. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)

posted 06.14.2017

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