Kelly Jean Massey remembers walking into Cumberland Regional High School on her first day as a freshman and wanting to run right back out.
"Coming from little Stow Creek School and an eighth-grade class of only 17 students, I didn't know many people and was honestly rather intimidated," the class salutatorian said in her graduation speech Wednesday, a copy of which was provided to The Press of Atlantic City.
Massey's speech addressed how she didn't know many people and was intimidated, but like all of the graduates, she moved forward and they are now ready to move forward again. She said she knows that there are fears about the future, but they have learned to aim high and work hard.
"We have learned more about ourselves," she said. "We have learned how to work with others and accept their differences. Take this knowledge with you and make use of it in the future."
Both Massey and valedictorian Justin Seay mentioned the important role of God in helping them learn to make and accept decisions in their lives.
Seay said in his speech, also provided by the school, that when he was rejected by the U.S. Naval Academy, he was crushed and couldn't see past the failure. But with the help of friends, he came to understand that if he trusted in God, things would work out. He will attend Rowan University on a full scholarship, so all the work he did preparing to apply for the Naval Academy still helped him toward his future.
Seay cited a poem called "The Dash" by Linda Ellis, with the dash being the hyphen between the two dates on a tombstone.
"The dash represents the time you spent alive, everything you did and every impact you had on the world you left behind," he said. It ends with a question to the reader about whether, at their funeral, they would be proud of the things that are said about how they spent their "dash."
Seay ended his speech by telling classmates to do whatever they do in the future with passion and consideration, so that if they are presented with opportunity, they will be prepared to succeed.
"Understand that no matter what your talents may be, everyone has a place in this world," he said. "Lastly, know that God has a plan to make your dash count, and that you can get through anything with Him."
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