The Newport High School Graduation was held on Friday, May 11th on Greyhound Field. Emma Jackson, the Class of 2018 Valedictorian made the most profound and emotionally charged speech that has been delivered in many years, if ever. Although the speech as a whole was amazing, not all could be put into one article, but I chose to share some of the speech for readers. She began the speech by expressing her gratitude for the teachers at Newport High. “Though I am grateful for every administrator, teacher, friend, and family member that has been an influence in my high school career, there are a select few that I wish to recognize tonight,” states Emma. “They strive to see their students succeed, not only in the classroom, but in all aspects of life. These teachers have compassionate, just, and righteous hearts. These people do not receive near the amount of recognition they deserve, so tonight, I want to honor them.”

            Jackson continued her speech singling out a few of the teachers that have impacted her the most. Mrs. Donna Morehart “…helped me reach goals and potentials in myself I never knew I had. I can honestly say I learned more about grammar in one after school session with you than I have in four years of high school...truly a phenomenal woman.” Jackson was an active member of FFA and made reference to Mr. Steve Davis. “You believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself. The love you have for teaching, and your students is so powerful,” told Emma. She referred to Mrs. Kathryn Hopkins, HOSA sponsor, emotionally saying, “I will never be able to thank you enough for all that you did for me and continue to do. Your dedication, passion, and desire to help everyone succeed not just in your class, but in school and in HOSA, inspires me every day to be a better person. Your life lessons and encouraging words will stick with me for the rest of my life.”

            After the educators, Emma Jackson recognized her sister, Anna, as her best friend and noted a few words of wisdom. “I may be a little bias about this, but she is the funniest persons I have ever met. Let my mistakes, my accomplishments, and my adventures in high school be lessons for you as you grow up. Continue to strive for the things you want in life and I promise you, you’ll get them.”

            Throughout the speech, Jackson used her own life experiences and the lessons learned to encourage and motivate those in attendance. “I’m so lucky to be a graduate of this unique, talented, and intelligent group of students…each one of you is going to accomplish something great. It’s kind of cliché to say “follow your dreams” but in fact that’s exactly what I hope you do. There’s going to be obstacles along the way, and there are going to be people who don’t want to see you succeed, but that’s exactly why you have to. You’re going to mess up, and you’re going to make mistakes in this chapter of your life, but learn and grow from these mistakes. Failure is not the opposite of success, it is part of success. I myself have failed many times, but never once did I let these failures set me back, instead they only  pushed me forward, and that’s why I’m standing here today. One of my biggest goals in life is to prove people wrong about who I am and what I am capable of.” By the end of this part of the speech, each person at the graduation was in awe of her strength, her compassion for others and her determination to succeed.

            Jackson continued, “This year specifically, I’ve learned more about what it means to be a kind person than anything else. You can dislike someone, and even dislike them for no reason at all, but it’s never okay to humiliate, and degrade that person. Words hurt more than people realize, but it’s how you react to these things that define who you are. You can succumb to what people say about you, or you can take them and grow from them. Everyone has been a victim of hurtful words, and may have even said these hurtful words before, but it’s never too late to make a change. Although we may not like the concept of forgiveness, and want to hold that grudge forever, we must also forgive people for their hurtful words or actions. You must forgive them because God forgave you. Senior year has taught me to be the change, and to be kind to those who were never kind to me. I’m a full believer in that kindness not only changes you, but it changes the world.” It is rare to encounter a young adult with such maturity and wisdom. 

      In conclusion, Jackson quoted Romans 8:31: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” and encourages the Class of 2018, “If you take anything away from this speech tonight, let it be this. Learn from your mistakes, and be kind in whatever you choose to do in life. Be a millionaire, be an electrician, work at McDonald’s, be a stay at home mom, be a singer or an actress. Just do what your heart desires most. I know something special when I see it, and when I look at you guys, there are a world of possibilities just waiting to be pursued. Anyone who says that something is not possible, has never seen this class during spirit week. Continue to be kind, courageous, and as my mom would say ‘never forget where you came from.’ I’m going to end this speech with a quote from one of the most inspiring, intelligent, and influential people of all time, Walt Disney. ‘It’s always fun to do the impossible.’ Thank you.”

            Newport High School is dedicated to the success of every student. Although each graduate will continue their path in life separate from one another, the bonds of growing up in a small town will remain throughout life. Congratulations Class of 2018. Pictured are Emma Jackson and Mrs. Kathryn Hopkins.