By Robert Tomlinson
THREE RIVERS — The 130 students of Three Rivers High School’s Class of 2023 graduated high school Thursday, May 25 during the school’s annual commencement ceremony.
This year’s ceremony, for the second time in the last three years, was held at Armstrong Field on a night with clear skies and a little bit of a breeze. Of the 130 graduating seniors, 28 graduated with honors, and 34 graduated with highest honors.
In her opening address to her fellow classmates, Class President Gabrielle Charvat said each and every student in the class had to overcome some sort of obstacle in their school career to make it to graduation that night, and praised the students for overcoming those obstacles.
“Today is a very big step into a new beginning. It’s a step into independence. Is it going to get hard? Heck yeah, it is, we’re just getting started. But you know what? That’s okay, because the best things in life are the hardest to accomplish,” Charvat said. “We all know life is hard; there’s no easy way around it. But it’s how we face those struggles and those adversities that make us who we are.”
Charvat encouraged her fellow classmates to “full send” anything they choose to do in the future, saying each one of the students has a gift, and to give life “everything you have” and not be afraid to take risks.
“Whatever that gift may be, I leave you with one challenge, and that challenge is to full send on whatever it is you want to do. If you want to be a plumber, be the best plumber you can be. If you want to be a doctor, be the best doctor you can be,” Charvat said. “It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, what matters is finding your purpose in this world and leaving with nothing left to give.”
The next student address during the ceremony came from senior Emily Moore, who said high school had an impact on each student in attendance, and that she hopes the students look back on their high school years fondly. She added that the class hasn’t been driven by popularity, but by character, and has accomplished a lot, despite being the class to experience the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic as freshmen.
“We have persisted making the most of our standard high school years. Our far-from-normal high school experience has made us stronger, giving us resilience which I hope we all carry with us throughout the tough trials life may throw,” Moore said. “I’m sure there’s no student before me that cannot overcome these said trials.”
She ended her speech by saying that kindness would take the students far throughout their lives.
“Kindness is the greatest gift you can give. Our time in high school may be short compared to the universe’s history, but it’s helped shape every one of the students here today,” Moore said. “As theatrical as it may sound, we can all diversify this world, especially the Class of 2023. So please, be kind, be kind to yourself, be kind to your neighbor, be kind to your enemy, and be kind to strangers.”
In his address, senior Elliott Weed again mentioned a lot of the trials the students have had to endure – the pandemic, teacher shortages, hybrid learning and even Eastern Equine Encephalitis in their freshman year – and said the students have “shined with quality” through it all. He also mentioned that the students cannot be “defined with an asterisk” in a program, referencing the markers for honors and highest-honors students in the class listing in the event program for the evening.
“Some of us have committed our time to community service and given back to our community daily. Some of us have dedicated countless hours to maintain that honor roll GPA. Some of us have excelled in their sport, winning a conference title in bowling or breaking a school record in basketball or in track, balling out on the football and soccer field too,” Wee said. “Some of us have perfected their craft, some with a paintbrush in the art room, and some with a mig welder, HVAC unit or stethoscope. Some even with kids in an elementary classroom. All of these things are what makes the class – the Class of 2023 – so diverse and so unique. The hard times have hardened us and made us more adaptable and more prepared to go out into the world and make our mark.”
After a moment of thanks and appreciation to teachers, faculty and family for helping them get to today, the traditional passing of the spade was held, as Charvat passed it on to the president of the Class of 2024, Maddox Hagen. Following the passing, Hagen said he accepts the challenge being the senior class president brings.
Each graduate then stepped across the stage to receive their diplomas, and following that, the Three Rivers High School Symphony Band played the arrangement “Celebration” by Randall D. Standridge as a celebratory tune.
To wrap up the ceremony, Principal Carrie Balk and Superintendent Nikki Nash each had farewell addresses to the graduates. The topic of Balk’s address was wisdom she had learned from teacher Johnnie Gates, a 52-year veteran of the district, which included to not be afraid of an honest day’s work, making lemonade when life gives you lemons, accepting and acknowledging brilliance, and, in reference to virtual classes during the pandemic, “keep your camera on.”
During her speech, Balk noted many of the accomplishments and happenings, both good and humorous, of the members of the class, but all in all said she hoped they work hard, make the most of what life gives them, and to never mistake knowledge for wisdom.
“Work hard; most overnight success took a really long time. Make some lemonade; sometimes you have to get knocked down lower than you’ve ever been to stand up taller than you ever were. Keep your cameras on; courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen. And last but not least, never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living, while the other helps you make a life,” Balk said.
Nash, for the second year in a row, read a book to the class for her farewell address, “Monday” by Lucy Branam, which brought with it the message of learning to be yourself and how important it is to value yours and others’ contributions.
At the end of it all, with the sun still shining and the wind blowing toward the south end zone of the football field, the Class of 2023 officers asked students to turn their tassels, and the caps went flying to signify the end of their high school careers.
The senior class song was “Good Old Days” by Macklemore, the senior class colors were purple, white and pastel pink, the senior class flower was the hydrangea, and the class motto was a famous – and fitting – phrase by Dory from the movie “Finding Nemo,” “Just Keep Swimming.”
Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 or firstname.lastname@example.org.