Last night was the Graduation Ceremony of the Nuniwarmiut School Class of 2009. After 3 days of hard work and preparation the ceremony went off without any major hitches and was very very humbling.
Each of the three graduating seniors gave their own speech. I was to go on after our pastor and school board member gave his. I was nervous to be the commencement speaker and each of the students had a personal heartfelt thank you specifically for me.
Hazel the valedictorian, spoke eloquently about how it takes an entire community to raise a child, and shared a few personal stories that touched everyone. She thanked me for keeping her organized and motivated and said that I helped with her college application and filling out her first scholarship application (that she got).
Poor Juanita got a horrible chest flu and lost her voice hours earlier that day, but she pressed on anyway and gave a very humbling speech thanking each staff member of the school including janitors, cooks, and maintenance workers, then she thanked me for sticking with her through her tough times and helping her finish school.
And Harvey ended by telling a real tear jerker about how he had many great teachers and how much his father sacrificed to raise his family, and then he got me good by turning from the podium, looking me in the eye, and saying I was the best teacher he ever had.
By this point I was overwhelmed with emotions. I had already welled up tears a couple of times and hadn't even given my speech yet.
It has only been 8 years since I graduated high school. I can’t even remember it really, which is weird because its supposed to be one of the most important days of your life. I just remember what it felt like
I was really excited to leave home and FINALLY be on my own. I was sick of my hometown. Just like most of the teenagers here, my friends and I used to say:
“This place is so boring, there is nothing to do, I can’t wait till I get outta here man.” (LOTS OF LAUGHING)
But then one day I did leave home. A couple friends came with me, but most of them stayed behind.
And As soon as my parents dropped me off in that dorm room in college on the other side of the state I knew things had changed for good.
I moved away to college, I went to Australia and Fiji, graduated college, moved close to home, got a normal job at the power company, quit, went Chile and Peru, went back to school to become a teacher, and got a job on a tiny Eskimo village in Alaska where I have lived and taught here for two years (LOTS AND LOTS OF CLAPPING), and now in one week I’ll be going home again.
I have gone all over the world in search of something I don’t know if I’d ever find. All the while it was right at home.
I say this to you now because is whether you are going to college in Anchorage, going to Bethel to work, or whether you are staying right here in Mekoryuk you have to know that your home will always be here on this island, and this island is special. You can go off and do great things all over the world but part of your heart will be right here.
Whether you’re graduating, or you will soon, or whether you never did, or whether you already have, I want to share somethings I’ve learned from my adventures with you.
As my last effort as your teacher, friend, fellow human being and honored graduation guest, here is Mr. Kale Iverson’s top 10 tips for kicking butt at life and being an all around awesome person (MASSIVE CHEERING) Are you ready?
Number 1: Most important of all! Stay positive. My grandfather had a famous saying that I try to live by, “When you wake up in the morning each day you have only one decision to make: “Will I have a good day or will I have a bad day.” If you make that right decision the rest will fall in line. So have a good day ok?
Number 2: Listen to your heart and do what’s right. Inside every one of you is a feeling you get when you know what you’re doing is wrong or right. When you get that feeling listen to it because everything balances out in life and know that how you treat others will come back around some day, good or bad.
Number 3: Learn from the past, plan for the future, but be here now living in the moment. Don’t dwell on the past because you can’t change it, move on, fix mistakes with your actions in the now. And don’t trip on the future and worry because it won’t ever be exactly how you planned. But the moment that we’re in right now, you can do that perfectly.
Number 4: Every person you meet has a special message for you or you have a special message for them. No matter who they are, nice, mean, old, young, helpful, evil, caring, boring, male, female, gay, straight, deformed, ugly, beautiful, old, young, black, white, green, purple or red, you can learn something from everyone around you and maybe they can learn from you. So listen to what people have to say and try to see things from their point of view.
Number 5: Always Work Hard and Do It Right. An old baseball coach I once had told me that “if you aren’t playing in today’s game its because you’re not good enough.” As mean as that sounds its also true. If you work hard enough, practice enough, and try hard enough you can get anything you want in life, but don’t do things halfway or Bitchadoon and then complain about not getting what you want. Do things the RIGHT WAY the FIRST TIME.
Number 6: Be yourself. Guess what? You are a DORK! Get over it. To be yourself you have to get to know yourself which will take your whole life. Trying to be someone else or what someone else wants you to be will only leave you feeling empty and confused. Be proud of who you are and all your weirdness, and dorkyness, and coolness. People will be attracted to your individuality and be more comfortable around you.
Number 7: Be the Change You want to see in the world. (Ghandi) If you don’t like the way things are in your life or the world around you, start by making the change in yourself and setting the example. Bossing people around and complaining about things won’t change anything and neither will violence, anger, or hatred. Only a positive example of a better solution will ever make people change.
Number 8: Life is short, have fun…but don’t hurt yourself or others. Its important to have a good time in life, and almost anything you will ever have to do can be fun if your try. Just remember you have to do some things in life you don’t want to so that you can earn the freedom to do whatever you want. And that freedom is what we live for. Its ok to have fun, just make sure its not hurting yourself and others.
Number 9: Your Best is All You Can Do. If you do your best job on everything, then you can rest easy knowing that you did your part in any part of this world and that you did all you could do. But if you don’t then you will have regrets in life. Don’t be afraid to succeed and do your best, at least then you can look back on your life and be proud.
Number 10: Be Creative in life. Paint. Draw. Play and instrument. Make clothing, make art, make music, make poetry, make songs, make people laugh, make movies, take pictures, make gifts for people, creating beautiful and wonderful and thought provoking and useful things in life is one way you can leave your mark on the world. Be the creator of beauty in your life, a giver of happiness, a producer of joy.
So all together here they are: Stay Positive, Listen to your heart and do what’s right, live in the moment, Remember that everyone has a message, work hard and do things right, always be yourself, be the change you want to see in the world, its ok to have fun but don’t’hurt anybody, do you best always, and be creative in life.
I’m positive that if you do those ten things no matter where you live, no matter what you do, no matter who you are, you will be happy and successful.
Thank you for letting me get to know each and everyone of you. You have each given me a message that I will never regret. I came here Kale Iverson and Leave here Massuucikili. (WILD CHEERING).
Now I have one last message for each graduate.
Hazel please promise me that you will use all your powers for something amazing in life, you can do anything you want, all you have to do is try and keep working hard like you do and you will come out on top…I promise! Don’t settle for anything or anyone. (STARTING TO WELL UP BAD).
Harvey please promise me that you will take a breath and think before you act sometimes. Always continue to be that amazing caring and loving big brother I know you are. (CHOKING UP AND A TEAR FALLS ON MY SPEECH PAGE) You are strong and tough on the outside but inside you have a big caring heart, don’t forget that and let it guide your way. (WIPING TEARS AWAY FROM MY FACE AT THIS POINT).
And Juanita please promise me that you will always remember to smile. (SNIFFLING AND WIPING TEARS) It is a very simple request. Inside of you lives a happy girl and when you smile and relax you are so amazing. Remember you can always stop at any moment and start your day all over with a deep breath and a smile. (FLAT OUT CRYING).
Qauyana to everyone in Mekoryuk for your love, and hospitality, and support over the last two years. I am sad in my heart to leave this place for now. Hopefully we will all meet again soon.
Congratulations to Juanita, Harvey and Hazel on a great achievement and congratulations to the parents, school staff, and community on your new 2009 Nuniwarmiut School High School Graduates.
Thank you, and make Mekoryuk Proud Class of 2009.
After the speeches and the processional off the stage, the three seniors gathered for pictures, handshakes and hugs.
I must say that this year has been hard on me. This year I have stepped up, taken more responsibility at school, done seemingly much more than I though I was responsible for, and for the most part felt under-appreciated most of the time by almost everyone, but hearing those speeches and seeing the gigantic proud and heartfelt smiles on the faces of the students, parents and family, I felt like my whole life, and and my whole experience here was validated.
Last night I knew for the first time that being a teacher is exactly what I am supposed to do. Three kids graduated last night. I didn't know if they were going to make it when I first met them. I felt so sentimental last night, I was so proud, I felt like they were my own kids, and after all they were my first graduates. I don't think its something I'll ever forget.