By Superintendent Keevin O’Neill
I vividly remember four years ago, when I was your principal, greeting all of you in the VHS gym when you were only freshmen. As I welcomed all of you that morning, it brought back memories of being in the gym during my first year as assistant principal at Vicksburg High School. This assembly was on the morning of September 11, 2001. We were holding a school-wide assembly in the gym when the horrific 9-11 attacks occurred. This reflection made me realize that most of you were only entering this world at that time. And now, as you leave VHS to start pursuing your dreams, you are living in a world of the unknown due to COVID-19.
With that being said, I want to implore all of you NOT to hit the pause button. Don’t hit the snooze button. Don’t put things off. Now, more than ever is the time for you to continue to push forward towards your dreams and make them a reality. Stay positive, keep your focus, and continue to MAKE US PROUD.
Four years ago, I asked all of you to push yourselves academically, to get involved, and to surround yourself with people who support you in achieving your goals. Looking at all of your many accomplishments, you took that advice and ran with it.
Your collective GPA is impressive, and the number of AP courses you took over the past four years is nothing short of spectacular.
You took advantage of many EFE and EFA opportunities culminating with many of you being honored as outstanding seniors in those programs in the county.
You pushed yourself through the multiple fine arts opportunities, achieving excellence in our band, choir, visual arts, film and video, photography, and theatre.
You have pushed yourselves in athletics and strength and conditioning, achieving multiple conference championships and individual honors, including the Equestrian team’s state championship this past Fall.
You have made giving back to the community a priority, demonstrating incredible generosity and grace through NHS and Aim Higher.
And collectively, you contributed to VHS achieving TOP HIGH SCHOOL status as awarded by US News and World Report.
Looking back on all of these incredible accomplishments, it is still very difficult not to focus on the multiple events, ceremonies, and other senior year activities that were taken away from you due to the pandemic—musicals, concerts, part of winter sports, and all of the spring sports, and senior walk. The list is long, and it is not easy to accept. As your Superintendent, I truly am so sorry. As a Dad of a graduate, I also feel the pain, anger, and disappointment. I know this is an emotional time for all of us, but I want to make the entire class of 2020 know how incredibly proud of you we all are. You are a strong group and I know you will endure and make your dreams a reality.
Throughout the pandemic and shut down of schools, I am often reminded of a conversation I had with one of my mentors many many years ago. We were talking about leadership and he was a master at utilizing quotes and stories to make his point. He said:
“A wise old man was talking to a boy and said, There are two wolves always fighting inside me. One is filled with anger, hate, jealousy, shame, and lies.
The other wolf is filled with love, joy, truth, and peace. This battle rages inside of you and all people. The boy thought for a moment and asked, “Which wolf will win?”
The old man answered, “THE ONE YOU FEED.”
As you begin the next chapter in your life, I ask all of you to think about which wolf you will feed inside of you. Now, more than ever, we need to work together, take care of one another, and think positively as we push through all the unknowns you are encountering and will encounter in the near future.
In closing, don’t hit pause or hit the snooze on your goals, your plans, your future. Keep striving to give your best every day and know better days are ahead.
I am so proud of each and every one of you. I’m thankful for the composure, the patience, and the grace you have shown. I know you will do great things in the future, and I can’t wait to hear about all your successes moving forward.
Congratulations, Class of 2020.
Mr. Brush [VHS principal], it is my pleasure to accept for graduation the Vicksburg High School Class of 2020, and to confer upon them their diplomas.