WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP | Of all the pieces of advice Washington Township graduates received at Saturday's commencement, the one that drew the biggest reaction came during a song.
Graduates, their families and friends clapped, cheered and laughed as the senior song, “Don't Worry, Be Happy,” was performed by several students, including graduates Nate Hendrix, Thamarr McGee and Chaz Steeves.
Earlier, more than 70 graduates filed into James Dold Gymnasium to strains of "Pomp and Circumstance."
Principal Jerry Hale welcomed the crowd and offered some words of wisdom to the graduates.
"Rather than try to be the best in the world, strive to be the best for the world,” Hale said.
By doing so, graduates' growth will be lifelong and their “God-given gifts will be fully realized,” the principal said.
In her speech, valedictorian Holly Evans stressed the importance of failure as a way to success.
“Show me someone who has never failed and I'll show you someone who has never achieved,” Evans said.
She urged her peers to embrace their mistakes and learn from them, noting that many graduates will find they've picked the wrong major, roommate, career or even spouse.
“You're going to make a lot of mistakes, but you'll have a lot of success, too,” she said. “The greatest mistake you can make in life is to fear making one.”
Evans plans to attend the University of Notre Dame to prepare for a career as an actuary. Prior to the ceremony, she reflected on her time in high school. She said among the things she'd miss most was being manager of the boys basketball and track teams.
Graduate Bob Ross said he'd attended Washington Township schools since kindergarten and it would be hard to leave friends, teachers and coaches. He graduated fifth in his class and will study engineering at Trine University in Angola, Ind., and play baseball and basketball there.
In her remarks, salutatorian Cassidy Feldsien quoted from the book “Oh, the Places You'll Go!” by Dr. Seuss.
"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. ... And you are the one who'll decide where to go,” she said.
But as they decide where to go in the future, graduates shouldn't forget the people, places and events that have been part of their past, Feldsien said.
She encouraged her classmates to take risks, be spontaneous and stand out from the crowd.
“We're all catalysts for a new and better world,” Feldsien said.