Everett Jeffries was named the valedictorian for the Ecole HJ Cody School Class of 2018. Photo by Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News

2018 Valedictorian Address

Everett Jeffries was chosen as the valedictorian for the Class of 2018

Hello, and good morning everybody! Today is a day that we will remember for our entire lives, and on behalf of myself and the grad class, I want to thank teachers, family and friends for being here and making today even more special. But most importantly, I want to thank my social class, for their unrelenting applause.

For the parents out there who don’t recognize me from the kindergarten class photo, I’d like to share a little bit about myself. I grew up on an acreage a little ways from Sylvan, and I attended the small Poplar Ridge school for my elementary years. From there, the busing zones brought me to Fox Run, and well, I’ve been with you guys since! At first, all of us Poplar Ridge kids were overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the size of Sylvan Lake, but we came to realize quite quickly just how ​wonderful ​this community is. One of my favourite quotes from a book that I read in high school is that “a place is only as good as the people in it.” Well, all of you have proven just how awesome this place can be.

It is an incredible honour to stand here today as valedictorian to represent the class of 2018. When the announcement came over the intercom at school, just about everybody began to prepare for a lockdown. Anyway, when the ruckus quieted down, I was overcome with gratitude. However, once it was actually time to start writing the speech, well, I was struck by the downfall of every high school student…procrastination. As we’re all pretty much adults now let’s be honest here; there’s nothing quite like chilling on your bed with mounds of homework and textbooks, which are all conveniently arranged to prop up the laptop or phone that we’re streaming netflix on! But anyways, when I finally turned good ol family guy off, I couldn’t for the life of me choose what to say to you all today. However, I talked to the grad class, and they helped me decide. It was suggested that we pretend together that we’re all writing the dreaded english written diploma. And the topic we are now going to be addressing is, inspiration!

A little while ago, I was at a… uhm… social gathering, and in talking to some of my peers, my eyes were opened to what inspiration really is. A classmate came up to me and said, “You know, the work you’ve put in and seeing how dedicated you are academically has pushed me to start caring more and working harder in my own classes.” This changed something inside of me, and I realized that this is a two way street. Later, I approached a person I look up to, also in our grad class, and I told him that seeing his athletic progress and dedication to health inspired and pushed me to get my lazy butt to the gym. You see, inspiration really is a lot simpler than it seems. By working hard and doing something with passion, by giving your all, others will see and follow suit. You don’t need to actively be working to inspire others, you just need to simply do your thing, and in turn you ​will​ inspire. Sometimes, just living your life to the best of your ability is enough to inspire the people that know your story.

You can never really know how much you ​truly​ impact others, but when you figure out that you’ve helped someone, it creates a desire to do it even more. It’s like a smile, that by sharing one with somebody, you create a chain reaction and eventually that first smile works its way back to you. I believe that this cycle is demonstrated quite well in the diversity of interests in our 2018 class here in Sylvan. As students we’ve found motivation from the people around us. By excelling in what you love, you inspire the onlookers to go and work harder in their own interests. Together we push each other to be the best that we can be, through our individual efforts in art, sports, activism, music, academics, drama, and everything else we’ve put time into. HJ Cody, you inspire the people around you by taking pride in what you do, so please, never stop.

Believe it or not, we’re changing the way that people in ours and neighbouring communities think of HJ Cody. A perfect example of this is the recent success of our school’s first ‘walk a mile in her shoes.’ I want to personally thank everybody that helped or supported in any way, because we truly made a difference. Ms Barb Barber, the executive director of Women’s Outreach, summed it up nicely when she said “nothing can stand in the way of [high school students with a purpose.” My friends, on that day we legitimately inspired some people.

While this is the way we students pass inspiration amongst ourselves, it can come from other influences as well. Teachers, coaches, and mentors have all played some part in fueling the young people that stand here today. True story here, my parents worried about my IQ as a child because I struggled for ​years ​to be able to tie my shoes, for the life of me I just couldn’t figure it out. You know the whole bunny ears or whatever? Completely​ above my head. And it wasn’t until a certain teacher in Grade 4 finally decided to take me under her wing that I finally learned! But seriously, a shout out to those amazing teachers that genuinely care, who strive to help us learn in new and creative ways. There are many of us that would not be here today if not for their perseverance, and that includes my lace up shoes!

Competition can also be attributed to the achievements of many of us here. Such competitive drive pushes some of us to be the best that we can be, and vice-versa, until we are continually leapfrogging each other towards achievement. I want to acknowledge my friend Noah Snow, a true academic achiever, who has pushed me this year to be the best that I can be, and to say thank you for the motivation as well as encouragement. You see, whether it be sports, competitive one-act plays, academics or any competition really, we use the standards of the people around us to drive ourselves to become our very best.

True inspiration can come from the most unlikely places, the most unlikely encounters. I want to leave you all today with a personal experience that happened a couple of weeks ago. It is an event that I believe will continue to inspire me for a long time. I witnessed our mother sow having her piglets! As anyone who has ever witnessed birth knows, it’s one of the most profound miracles one can experience. What particularly struck me was the instinctive way the piglets made their way to the milk. I was left thinking, man they’ve got it figured out. I wish I knew what to do with my life that easily. But then it struck me, no matter which way they turned, as long as they kept walking with their momma on their side, they’d eventually get to where they needed to be.

Now I think this is something that can be translated into our lives as well. Even if we don’t know where we’re going, as long as we keep our passions and inspiration close to us, then eventually we’ll get to where we need to be. We’re just like those baby piglets, and we’re going to get there, even if we’re not yet sure where there is. Ha, how’s that for a thesis?

Class of 2018, I encourage you to keep your eyes peeled along the way for inspiration. Keep your ears listening and your hearts open. Now it might not come jumping out at you, or maybe it will, heck who knows. But take the time to look in the unusual places, cause you just never know.

Thank you all very much, and congratulations guys, we’ve done it!

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