‘A major step’
185 receive diplomas during Marshall commencement
MARSHALL — It was the pinnacle of their achievement at Marshall High School. But graduates of the MHS class of 2023 said commencement was just one stop on a much longer journey.
“It is only the first step of the mountain climb, and there will continue to be obstacles that we will conquer,” said MHS graduate Jihan Ahmed.
A total of 185 MHS graduates received their diplomas at commencement ceremonies Friday evening. Ahmed and other student speakers at graduation reflected on their classmates’ time in school, and found a variety of ways to talk about their experiences. In her speech, Ahmed compared graduates’ journey through life to a climb up a mountain.
“This is a major step in the climb of our lives, one that should be recognized,” Ahmed said. “But graduation is not an end goal in itself.”
Ahmed told her classmates that they should look at graduation as a starting point for their futures.
“We do not stop growing once we get a diploma. Life is about growing, and we continue growing until we learn new skills that we carry with us for the rest of our lives. And we do not have to stop there,” Ahmed said. “I hope all of us here today can take this personal accomplishment as an example of how anything is truly possible when we put our minds to it.”
Speaker Madeline Van Keulen looked at graduation from another perspective.
“If you think about the journey we’ve all been on, I have to say that in many ways the road to high school graduation is a lot like getting your driver’s license,” she said.
The first step toward getting a driver’s license was putting in hours of classroom time.
“It was a lot like our freshman year — stuck at home, taking classes online, and wondering when we would ever see our friends again, as COVID changed all our lives,” Van Keulen said.
Speaker Kaden Hoefs also said going through the COVID pandemic in freshman year was an obstacle graduates had to get through.
“We were coming up on some of the most memorable moments of our lives. But then COVID came, and it seemed like our world got so small, so fast,” Hoefs said. “But as the years progressed, we were able to flip the switch and brighten up some of our darkest days.”
Van Keulen said high school gave students a chance to gain new experiences, like putting in driving hours before their final test.
“Ultimately, we completed our senior exams, our final sporting events, that final music recital letting us know that we are done,” Van Keulen said. And like people who have received their driver’s license, graduates now had freedom and a long road ahead, she said.
“Our car is full of gas, the engine is tuned up, and we’re ready to hit the road,” she said. “It’s going to be a great trip.”
“In many ways, we learned just as much in the classroom as we did outside the classroom,” speaker Braxton Seifert said of graduates’ time at MHS. Seifert encouraged the class of 2023 to remember more than just academic lessons, and to let their passions help them find purpose in life.
“Your attitude is everything, and will determine how successful you are in life,” he said. “Starting right now, you have the power to chart a new course and pave your own way for success. More than anything, success is determined by your character.”
Seifert urged graduates to go out into the world and show the strength of their character.
“Show the world that Marshall High School has taught us more than math, science, English and history. Above all, it taught us to be good, decent and responsible people. That more than anything will determine our success in life,” Seifert said.