CLA

From Hannah Wheeler (Class of 2024 Salutatorian)

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Howdy and good evening friends, family, faculty, and fellow graduates.

Winnie the Pooh, a loveable children’s book character many of us grew up with, once said “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” As I sat down to write this speech this past week, I began to realize how difficult it was going to be to form the words to say a final goodbye to not only my fellow classmates who sit before me, but the community of Lockhart as a whole who raised me. Regardless of how our stories started here at LHS– whether beginning classes virtually, in person, or in a completely different district– we all end tonight on the same page. 

Yet, NONE of these four years would have been possible without our support systems. It’s because of those who have pushed us harder and motivated us to go above and beyond that we are privileged to sit here today. These individuals and our relationships with them are what makes it so hard to say goodbye to this chapter of our lives. Because of them, we are so grateful. Tonight I want to acknowledge my support systems and encourage us to reflect with gratitude on those who have meant so much to us.

 First and foremost, I thank God, because as John 3:16 says, “He loves us unconditionally and gave His only son, Jesus, so that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish but can have eternal life.” Even through our failures, He still calls us His own with love and mercy never-ending. He knows me for who I am and allows me to live a life full of hope for the future. No amount of gratitude I express could ever amount to the joy and love He has given me.

Next, a thank you to one of the biggest and best support systems we all have, family. Although we may not necessarily be saying a final goodbye to them, our lives with them will begin to change after high school. 

So, to begin I would like to thank my older sister. My entire life, she has been my best friend, my loudest cheerleader, and my biggest pet peeve. She has shown up for my many events, she has driven me anywhere and everywhere, and is always ready to pick up my call when I need an ear to listen. Megan has always been my biggest inspiration, especially today, as 3 years ago, she ended her high school chapter upon this stage giving a speech as well. Although we have shared teachers and I have had the large presence of her own achievements upon me in high school, I would not want it any other way, and I am proud to be able to be recognized with her in this page of my story. Thank you Megan and thank you to all of our siblings here tonight.

Next, I want to thank my mom and dad. My parents taught me how to endure and showed me how to live on purpose and for a purpose. Growing up, my dad always reminded my sister and I that the number one rule in our house was that “Mom and Dad always love you, no matter what”, and they have stuck by that. They have ALWAYS shown up to everything in my life. For example, my dad never missed a cross-country race in all four years of my competing and my mom always was the one to stay up with me through late nights of tears, homework, and laughter. Because of them, I was able to learn how to love those around me because I was so loved in the first place. So, thank you so much Mom and Dad, and all parental or guardian figures out there of each graduate sitting before me tonight. 

 I also want to express my gratitude to my grandparents. I can wholeheartedly say that without them, I would not stand here today. From many carpool line pick-ups to afterschool conversations, my grandparents have been some of my biggest supporters and wisest counselors. They have taught me to be brave and run my “race” with endurance while learning to pursue what I love in a way that glorifies the only true audience that matters. Thank you, Grandma, Grandpa, Nana, and Papa for everything you have done for me to get me to this spot where I am today, I know my story would look a lot different without you. And, thank you to all grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles who have been a light of encouragement for each of us here tonight. Although we may not be saying a final goodbye to our families, we do wish a farewell to the closing of this chapter.

Now onto my LHS support system. This is truly the hardest part, as it is a potentially final goodbye for us. I want to start by acknowledging the amazing friends I have made. Together, we survived AP tests and OnRamps classes, we struggled through relentless cross-country courses, we studied and caught up on life for hours at Summer Moon, we danced together at prom, and ultimately we became a family. I can truly say that without you, I would not be able to be the person I am today. I am so grateful for each one of you, you have meant the world to me and I know this is not our final goodbye, but the turning of a page. As we look around today we all see friends who we couldn’t have done life without, and we are eternally grateful.

I also want to thank some of the extraordinary LISD faculty who are on the front lines every day and who have shown up for us. I want to thank the teachers who have patiently sat with us in countless tutoring sessions, worked with us through revising many essays, and who have provided a place of comfort in times of need. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank specifically thank teachers such as Mrs. Evans, Mrs. Schaible, Mrs. Hardaway, Mr. Simons, Mrs. Gannon, Mrs. Gratz, and Mrs. Schiaretti in high school, and even going back to some of my most influential teachers such as Mrs. Ramesch in Kindergarten and Mrs. Salinas in preschool. These people have helped me create my own narrative and allowed me to build my own unique story. All of us here have teachers to thank, so please know we appreciate everything you do for us. 

Along with our teachers, I also want to thank all of our coaches and counselors. Personally, people like Coach Ortiz and Mrs. Perez have been pivotal to my story here at LHS. Coach Ortiz allowed me to find value in the small things in life, and Mrs. Perez showed me how to work through perfectionism and appreciate my flaws. Because of all the teachers and staff before us, it is truly difficult to work up this last goodbye. On behalf of not only myself but the class of 2024, we thank you for your addition to our own chapters. 

I’d like to conclude with one final goodbye and a reminder that this is not the end but the beginning for us. Like Winnie the Pooh said, although saying goodbye might be difficult, how lucky we are to have had these relationships as a part of our story.

 As we leave tonight, remember to thank those who got us here–those who are sitting in the stands rooting for us today, or who are sending love from afar–as we could not be graduates without them. Remember to show gratitude for all who contributed to your story now and as you continue through life. Our narratives would not be complete without all of these amazing people. 

Thank you again and again to everyone here tonight and a final congratulations to the class of 2024. 

Thanks and Gig ‘em  

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