This is the Valedictorian Address, delivered by Mikey Gergely, at CCA's commencement ceremony on June 10, 2017.
Before I begin, I feel like it's only right to send out a huge thank you to everyone who is here today, and I'm sure all the seniors would say the same. If you look around the room this morning perhaps you see teachers, board members, friends, grandparents, ... maybe aunts and uncles, or your parents. Surely you have some sort of connection to the seniors sitting here in front of me, and they are, in fact, sitting here because you have influenced their life in some way or another. So for that, I thank you.
The people here today represent the ways in which God has shaped each - and every one of us-seniors into who we are today. There's a common saying that God works in mysterious ways. I think it's important to mention, however, that God does not only work mysteriously. The greatest way to see how God has shaped our lives is to look at how God has blessed us through the people he has chosen to surround us with, and these blessings are especially evident in all of the wonderful mentors ... , friends ... , and family members present today. God can make even small contributions make a big difference.
I can remember Mrs. Sanders' worship time during the day all the way back in first grade, and even field trips to Russell Orchards with Mrs. Sterling. I know Riley, Emma, Peter, and Alex will remember taking out our anger on other classes in dodge ball, during Friday fifteen as fourth and fifth graders. Fast forward to middle school, and how could we not mention doing yoga during drama with Mr. Hoover. Then, there's our model of the Berlin wall which we made out of legos in history with Mrs. Russell, and of course our DC trip, which might be a little dangerous to tell stories about, and who could forget our serious talks with Mr. Taylor which taught us about integrity and responsibility. And come to think of it… were almost always deserved, like the time we had the bright idea of duct taping Riley to the teacher's seat before class.
If we move on to high school we all were still surrounded by amazing teachers, and I could never fit all of the ways that they have influenced and empowered us in this speech. Whether Mr. Lawrenz's roundtables, deep conversations in calculus with Mr. Willis, you heard that right, or Mr. Wegrzyn's lessons that involved action figures and board games, we have been so blessed by each and every one of our teachers. Furthermore, I think that God has also very intentionally placed the eleven of us in a class together. God has worked in strong ways in, and among, every of us. For example, if you look back to ninth grade, as most of us packed our bags for La Vida before school began, everyone would seem very, very different. Riley would have seemed destined to become a movie star and although he was definitely more mature at that point than the 7th grader who begged to be duct taped to Mr. Taylor's chair, you probably couldn't tell. Having been with Riley now for 13 years, I can say that God has molded him into a man who cares deeply for others. He is someone who continually challenges our class, and is someone who I am extremely thankful to have known for so long. Next comes Peter, who would be hauling people's bags around with the same mushroom cut that almost everyone got in middle school (Pause and smile) something I'm guilty of as well. Similarly, throughout high school God has shaped Peter into our class leader in so many ways. He's a man who is unwilling to compromise his faith, and someone who I know we all look up to in one way or another. Emma, although you could still nail whatever villainous role you got in the school play, in ninth grade you hadn't grown into the strong woman of God that you are today. God has worked to make you into someone who challenges our whole class with your passion and love for others. Sonja, you too would have seemed much less sure of yourself than you are now. You have shown all of us how valuable little acts of kindness can be, and I know that you have inspired all of us with your constant care, and friendliness. Yasmin, you too have grown into someone who not only can make our whole class laugh, but also loves on everyone and challenges us all to ask important questions. Kevin too has grown into a man of God that always makes us laugh, even at times we shouldn't, yet has grown a much more serious and mature side over the past four years as well. Others, like Jared, Alex, Mike T, and Michael weren't even at CCA yet when we went to La Vida, and other faces would leave over the next four years as well. Jared, you set a strong example of faith to our whole class, and have been an extremely loyal friend, and mentor to each of us in one way or another. Alex, you have brought life to our class in so many ways, and although you 're not the most adventurous in our class, we all still love you for the many ways in which you brighten our days. Michael Gonzales, whether buying a Nintendo switch on our senior trip, or nailing you solo in our musical last year, you have brought life to our class in many ways as well. Finally, Mike Tammaro, you came from a shy young man who our whole class thought hated everyone, to one of the most important parts of our group, and an outgoing friend. As you can see, God has worked through all of us in ways that we couldn't have orchestrated ourselves.
For me, to be honest with you, going to a new place without all of you seems like a challenging and even scary task. While I'm obviously excited for college, there's a certain fear that comes with the unknown. Over the course of the past few months, I've seen my own plan of what I thought I would be doing come this Fall change drastically ... so I've had to wrestle with the idea that all this was a part of God's plan. I've been confused, and even angry at God at various points, but l know that even this struggle was for a reason. The end of the year has given me, and the rest of you chance to look back on the many ways in which God has protected and blessed us. Throughout high school, God put so many people and things in place for us to thrive, so I've realized ... that this providence is not something that will suddenly end. We will all continue to change our goals, and move to new places, but this just further goes to show how God's plan is something that we cannot directly control. I can't say exactly why each of us is going where we are next Fall, but I can say that it is a part of God's plan.
And this brings me to what I want you to learn. Just as Peter said, we cannot allow our definition of success to depend on what college we're at or what job we have. These things are shortsighted and out of our control. I want to challenge all of us today to shift our perspective of success, and how we are satisfied. One of the many things that our teachers have taught us is that you bring dignity to your work, and not the other way around. I want us to choose to work diligently, but for the purpose of glorifying God, not ourselves, because our definition of success should be based upon how well we follow God's plan ... not our own. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; ... in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your path straight." It's my prayer today that each and every one of us chooses to base our success on our willingness to follow God's will. To conclude, if there's one thing I want you all to take away from this speech, something that I want people to walk away thinking about, and something I've really been thinking about, working on, and telling myself, it's this saying.
"It's not where you go ... It's HOW you go."