BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Staff Writer
The annual Clarkston High School commencement ceremony took place June 3 at DTE Energy Music Theatre as 646 students walked across the stage in front of a packed pavilion.
Clarkston High School Principal Gary Kaul was his usual humorous self but did find a moment to be serious at the event.
“Crossing this stage is not like crossing a finish line, it is a beginning, not an end,” said Kaul. “All of you made it across in a different way, but you each made it and tonight, that is what we celebrate.”
Senior McKenna Larkin, who won the honor of being the student speaker at commencement from a pool of 22 applicants, gave a resounding near-10-minute speech that recounted the class of 2019’s days from kindergarten to the present.
“After we walk across this stage, it will be time to go our separate ways,” said Larkin. “The way we choose to go forward is really up to us. What lessons will you take with you when you go? Here’s one – we’re ready. Some of us may not think so, but you know what? We are. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be here right now sitting in this pavilion wearing these fancy caps and gowns about to walk across this stage. I am ready. You are ready. Class of 2019, we are ready.”
“Your future is an adventure,” added Board of Education President Elizabeth Egan. “And some of the time, it will be exciting, uncertain, disappointing or sad. Your journey forward today will test the shallow waters of all you have learned thus far and pull you into the deep, strong current of your quest for independence and success.”
Another highlight of commencement was senior Trevor Gilman playing the keyboard and singing a solo of Elton John’s “Your Song” just before the students received their diplomas. The combined symphonic band and choirs also played throughout the evening, directed by Mike Lewis and Mike Peterson, respectively.
Superintendent Shawn Ryan also spoke at the ceremony, recognizing the students for “taking a leap of faith” and that he would be doing the same the following day by skydiving from 13,000 feet.
He noted that by looking at the sea of blue, he also saw “scholars, musicians, workforce-ready skilled tradesmen, state champion athletes, robot-building geniuses, world travelers, artists, community contributors, communicators, military recruits, leaders, and learners.”
“Whether it’s the big milestones in life or the almost imperceptible shifts that allow us to grow, I’ve always thought that relationships deepen through shared experiences, especially the experiences that challenge us to reach heights we never before imagined were possible,” Ryan said. “It’s up to us to decide how we will see the mountains and cliffs in our lives and who we make the climb with. Together, we move forward.
“No matter how steady or comfortable we are, or for that matter, how unsteady or uncomfortable we are, we must live every day with outstretched arms. Every moment of this life offers us an opportunity to reach higher to grasp a helping hand with trust and with faith or extend an open hand to someone else and be their strength on the journey. If we were like this about 90 percent of the time, I’d say we’re getting it right as human beings. And not so coincidentally, this also puts us in a good position for giving and receiving hugs, which is also important throughout our lives.”
Ryan added that it’s important to live each day to its fullest.
“Together, we are stronger,” said Ryan. “All people face challenges, but we get to choose which ones we will take on and how far we are willing to go. Take up challenges, not fears. Take a leap of faith. Ask yourselves more ‘what ifs?’ And less time in thinking of the ‘why not?’ excuses. No matter what you do with your time and distance from Clarkston High School, live a great story. Make it a story worth telling. As Mo Willems, the ‘Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus’ and my favorite ‘Knuffle Bunny’ children’s book author says, ‘If you ever find yourself in the wrong story, leave.’ And find another one. Better yet, create another one.
“Don’t ever waste a day. We certainly missed enough snow days this year alone.”
Ryan’s son, Alec, was among the graduates, as was Board of Education Vice President Kelli Horst’s son, Jed.