GENESEO — Graduating seniors were encouraged to "look deeper" by class valedictorian Anna Mason at graduation ceremonies Sunday for the Geneseo High School Class of 2012.
The "Green Machine" turf was transformed into "graduation grounds" for the 211 graduating seniors, who were surrounded by family and friends in the bleachers and surrounding grounds.
Ms. Mason said, "For as long as we can remember, people have been asking us the same question, 'Well, what do you want to be when you grow up?'"
At first it was fun to dream about the answer, she said, but admitted as graduation day grew closer also did the worry and stress about the answer to that question.
"I think the classic, 'what do you want to be?' misses the mark," she said. "If our focus is simply on the 'what,' we risk overlooking our purpose. The 'what' simply skims the surface. Class of 2012, we do not want to just skim the surface."
She urged classmates to look deeper by asking themselves who they were going to affect and how they would make a difference.
A career itself will not be the culmination of all the efforts, she said.
"The culmination of your efforts will be the opportunities you gain through that career to touch the lives of people around you so that your life is much greater than yourself," she said.
"If we spend our lives working to bring glory and accolades to ourselves, our impact will fade. But if we serve selflessly and live with a greater goal in mind, we will leave a mark on those we encounter, a mark that will be seen not only in the way we live our lives, but in the way they live theirs."
True satisfaction is not found in evaluation one's success, Ms. Mason said, quoting form Robert Louis Stevenson with "Don't judge each day by the harvest that you reap, but by the seeds that you plant."
She closed with, "To quote my brother, Jeff, who stood in this spot eight years ago, 'Congratulations, and whatever you set out to do in life, get 'er done."
Salutatorian Lydia Flynn thanked parents and teachers for being a support system, and said, "You've made such a difference, and we are blessed to have you."
To her fellow graduates she said, "This is the just the beginning. We have so much to accomplish in the future, but no matter where we go, we share a common history. And I don't mean that we'll all have trouble spelling 'leaves' correctly for the rest of our lives. Our roots are in this community. As we travel on, I, for one, hope to remember some lessons learned while at GHS."
She first listed relationships and said, "I hope wherever we go, we'll not only cherish our memories of past friends, but also make new ones and always treat others with respect."
A person can make a difference without being recognized, Ms. Flynn said. "Simply because someone isn't seen by the world doesn't mean they aren't important. Each one of us can inspire, support and greatly influence another individual without ever becoming famous."
In closing, Ms. Flynn encouraged her fellow students to carry with them the lessons learned at GHS
Class president Joe Schilling laced humor into his address and said, "It's crazy to think that just a few years back we were wanna be rebels that didn't have a clue, with our rock 'n roll T-shirts and typical bad attitudes...But look at us now, graduating from what we thought would never end, high school."
"Our class was something else. It didn't matter if you were a football flunky or a southern rock junkie, everyone was accepted for who they were, where they were from, and what they did."
He said the Class of 2012 was a class of "variety, like a bag of M&M's. We had athletes, we had high-techs, and there were even blue-collar boys and rednecks. But when you put us all together it made something perfect, a class filled with kids that could depend on one another."
His example was when he had gotten his Jeep stuck in 2 feet of mud and said, "there was always someone to pull me out for a large pizza.'
"Most speeches usually leave some sort of message for the audience," Mr. Schilling said. "Well, here's my message to you. Never give up, stand up for yourself, and if you wanna do something then do it! Don't stop believing. Hold onto that feeling.
"I stand here today proud to have represented the best Class of 2012 in Henry County, in the State of Illinois and in the United States of America."
Student Council President Demi DeBarre said, "Follow your dreams, succeed, achieve. We have all heard these words our whole lives. And today we have made them a reality."
She said the "Maple Leafs have moxy and determination. We are a class that will succeed, we believe and we will achieve."
High school principal Mike Haugse shared significant quotes with the graduates and said, "I think most of you are very happy today because you think your schooling is all done after graduation. For those of you that feel this way, please remember this quote, 'Your schooling may be over, but your education continues.'"
He referred to learning from experience and said, "The trouble with learning from experience is that you never graduate."
His last quote addressed the significance of the day and the graduation ceremony: "Graduation is only a concept. In real life every day you graduate. Graduation is a process that goes on until the last day of your life. If you can grasp that, you'll make a difference."
"As you leave here today, please remember this quote, 'If at first you don't succeed, do it like your mother told you.'"
School Superintendent Scott Kuffel presented the Class of 2012 and members of the board of education presented diplomas.
Motto of the Class 2012 is "We saved the best for last; don't you wish you were 1-2?"