At Fairley High School and Hillcrest High School, students, staff, and families alike are excited about the 191 students heading to colleges in the fall, including Fisk University and Christian Brothers University. Many students are attending two-year universities tuition free thanks to the Tennessee Promise Scholarship.
While it has been a great school year at both of these campuses, this is Hillcrest's first graduation under Green Dot's leadership of the school, making it a very special Class of 2017.
Hillcrest had two students who met the criteria for salutatorian this year, as well as a valedictorian who embodies the meaning of what it means to be a Hillcrest Viking. At this year's graduation ceremony, all three of them shared insight and encouragement with their classmates:
Watch Hillcrest's graduation video recap:
Nicholas Whiteside - Valedictorian
“Becoming valedictorian for me was not just making the grade or having the highest GPA. It was about the emotion, the sacrifice, the early mornings and late nights, the tears, my fears, and most importantly, my failures. "Can't" is a four-letter word that is, at its root, the essence of all things possible. "Can't," at its root, is a word built from possibility and potential. "Can't," at its root, is greatness. Because, "can’t,"at its root, is "can!"
There is a wise man who had a motto. No, it's not "Four score and seven years ago..." It's not even the famous "I have a dream..." This phrase moved a nation of people who were tired of being told they "can't." And it took that one person to inspire the potential in those people and tell them, "YES, WE CAN."
President Barack Obama delivered that message 10 years ago. When I look around, I see people who can.
I believe that I am who I am because I didn't let the can'ts control my life.
It took people like my father, my aunts, my brothers, most definitely my mother, and most importantly God, to tell me I can.
Today, I’m telling you, Class of 2017, you can! You can be a world-class doctor, you can run your own record production company, you can be the next President of the United States. And this, I think a lot of us need to hear, you can make it in Memphis. Because the goal shouldn’t always be to make it out of Memphis, but to make something out of Memphis.”
Jedson Tonogan - Salutatorian
“Maybe life is simple. We, as humans, just make it more complicated. We all see obstacles as hardships. We see failures as a sign that we are not good enough. Life becomes a Ferris wheel that goes around and around toward success. It is the journey of the choices we make everyday.
And I expect you, my fellow graduates, to have better judgment for yourselves. A famous line runs this way: "Life is what we make it." Therefore... whatever fate awaits us in the future, we cannot put the blame on others. The outcomes of our choices affect us... We just need to have a positive outlook on life.
It's up to us to let life be a lesson or our a definition of ourselves.
Just remember your dearest alma matter Hillcrest: Humility, Integrity, Love, Leisure, Courage, Respect, Endurance, Spirituality, and Trust. Lastly, "Life is like a camera. You focus on what's important. Capture good times. Develop from the negatives; and if things didn't work out, take another shot."
Leke'la Jones - Salutatorian
"I’d like to start off by thanking everyone who has impacted me in any way during this journey, whether it be letting me heat up weird foods in the microwave, or just giving me a hug on a day you knew I could really use it. I want to truly thank you all, because it is to you I owe my success.
To my classmates, I have a list for you to help aid you through life after graduation, regardless of where the wind sweeps you:
Do not launch yourselves down a road paved with charred cement without first looking left and right to see what wrecks in your life you can prevent.
Between the cracks in these streets is complacency,
our body's attempt to say, "that’s enough,"
"it's okay to stop here," a false pretense.
There is a way to fight this that I'll get to...
Defeat the raging desire to victimize everything that you do by understanding it’s both important and dangerous to be aware of our issues,
highlighted so boldly in reds, whites and blues
Do not take this and make this
a conversation with nameless solution
instead, break this and shape this
we ARE the resolution."