LOWELL — Over 250 graduates from Lowell High School proceeded onto the football field Tuesday to cap off their high school careers.
"We entered as a class the teachers were warned of, but we’re exiting as one they’re proud of," said graduate and speaker Juanita Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, who will attend Marian University, recounted the challenges she and her fellow graduates faced over the past year and a half, but reminded them that while it may be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it is always there.
She encouraged them to always add "yet" to the end of uncertainties. So instead of telling yourself "I can’t," in the face of a hardship, say, "I can’t yet."
Principal Angela Patrick said the class of 2021 has a lot to celebrate. Not only did they show kindness and learn to be flexible, but they earned over $1.2 million in scholarships to be used for college and apprenticeship programs.
Four years ago, graduate Thomas Browne watched his older brother give a commencement speech to his Lowell class. Browne told his grandma then that he would do the same.
He said his assertion back then that he would give a speech was a bit selfish, but as he stood before his fellow graduates today, he told them that although he was chosen as a speaker, it wasn't about him; it was about "us."
Browne, who will attend Indiana University in the fall, gave his classmates three pieces of advice that strayed from what he called cliché advice.
“I hope you all fail at something,” he said in his speech.
Failing, he told them, is how you learn the most and discover who is standing by your side. It's failures that give you clarity on what it important in life, he said.
He went on to encourage them "create themselves" rather than embark on a search to find themselves. And rather than chasing happiness, he told them to seek contentment and gratitude because contentment, unlike happiness, can be perpetual.
Patrick sent the graduates off with the challenge to be kind even on their bad days.
She remembered a Lowell guidance counselor, Christina Thomas, who died earlier this year, and echoed what Thomas used to say telling the graduates, "In a world where you can be anything, be kind."