HARRISONBURG — Before presenting awards Tuesday night at Eastern Mennonite University, Wilson Memorial High Principal Dr. Kelly Troxell announced the Class of 2019 has been awarded a record-breaking $1,652,457 in scholarships.
“I see the people I see every day — I see the Class of 2019,” said Salutatorian Anna Justine Brule in her welcome address.
She said she hoped that members of the class could agree they were all leaving Wilson Memorial High “with a head full of ideas and a heart full of dreams.”
Commencement speaker James Coleman is Chief Giving Officer for Grow & Give Company in North Carolina, which helps prisoners when they get out of prison.
Coleman, a Wilson Memorial High graduate of 2012, told the 161 graduates that they do not know anything at this point in their lives, just as he did not seven years ago.
Right now the graduates are being asked: what will you do after high school? What will you do with the rest of your life?
Coleman said when he graduated he thought he would go to college and become a teacher.
But after two weeks in college, he knew it was not for him, so he dropped out. And now he is an entrepreneur.
“We have our plans, and God has His,” said Coleman, “which is true, but what are you supposed to do with that information in the meantime?”
Coleman said three kinds of individuals exist in the world: the kind that thinks events happen to them, the kind that thinks events happen because of them and the kind that thinks everything happens for them.
He encouraged the Class of 2019 to do their part. He said the graduates do not have to have answers for the questions they are being asked right now, and that is OK.
Coleman also told the graduates to learn to break the rules. Growing up, he did not get excited about any subject in school and did not know what he would do when he grew up. The summer after graduating Wilson Memorial, Coleman sold knives door to door.
“I loved it,” he said.
He worked so hard he forgot to stop and eat, then he went to college. But he soon learned it was not for him, so he went back to selling knives.
“Break the rules, and play your own game,” Coleman said.
He added that often individuals who give feedback on another’s goals usually do so because they have given up on their own goals.
He encouraged the graduates as they go forward in life to ask themselves if each opportunity they are presented with applies to their gifts they were given and will that opportunity get them where they are going.
In Coleman’s third point for the Class of 2019, he said God had something in mind when He created each member of the class.
“Your responsibility is your response to your ability,” Coleman said.
He said the graduates should use their gifts as vessels to serve others.
“Regardless of what you do, you can serve people,” he said, like the barber who cuts the hair of the homeless for free.
Coleman admitted to the graduates that he did not want to give a commencement speech when asked. He said he kept telling himself that someone would disagree with what he had to say, someone would be offended by what he said in a speech.
Then, he realized that the one individual who complained was not more important than the 999 who would listen and be affected by what he had to say.
Maegan Ann Parry, the Class of 2019’s Valedictorian said in her farewell address that the last four years were amazing for some members of the class, but some of the hardest years for others.
“It hasn’t been simple, but the thing about adversity is that it can make these moments, these starts that we have come upon now matter all the more because after four years we have finally made it here,” said Parry.
She encouraged her fellow classmates to continue to reach for further and greater stars. She believes sunshine always comes after the rain.
“The course of human history lies with each of us, and no matter what difficulty we faced I like to think that our impacts upon that history will be marvelous,” Parry said.