Anderson High graduates challenged to build on academic experiences

As he considered advice he would give to graduates in Anderson High School’s Class of 2024, Joe Cronk was led to the words of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

The superintendent of Anderson Community Schools said a passage in the play’s third act inspired him to compare the title character’s experience to the “undiscovered country” the school’s nearly 330 graduates have before them.

“In the future, you want to embrace change, you want to embrace adversity, you want to have a quest for lifelong learning,” Cronk said. “I think embracing the unknown and embracing adversity, they’ve been well-trained in that.”

Beginning their high school careers in a mostly virtual environment during the height of the pandemic in 2020 provided many of the graduates with early lessons in adaptability and facing adversity head-on, according to school officials. Those themes were stressed in several speeches throughout the day.

“In our adult lives, we won’t always have something formatted for us,” said Connor King, the class president and valedictorian. “We have to take our own steps, make our decisions for ourselves and use the foundation that we’ve built in high school to kind of help lead us into those postsecondary careers.”

King took a numeric approach to crafting his speech, inviting audience members to use their phone calculators to add up every number he mentioned. Unsurprisingly, the sum was 2024.

“I feel like I’ve been a product of my environment,” said King, who beginning in the fall will study architecture at the University of Cincinnati.

“The people — my family that supports me, my teachers that support me and my friends that challenge me — I wouldn’t be nearly as prepared without the people that have helped make this what it is.”

School officials also acknowledged that each senior’s unique academic and social experiences — especially navigating through a pandemic — will inform a variety of life choices they’ll make in the years to come.

“I truly believe that it’s made them stronger than they would have been,” said Anderson High School Principal Scott Shimer. “I think that as they move forward in their careers, they’ve gotten through a pandemic, so they can probably get through just about anything else.”

Saturday’s pair of ceremonies represented an opportunity for graduates to both reflect on the past and express optimism for the future.

“You were made to be beautifully different,” Kaydence McDonald told her fellow graduates in her speech. “This life is nobody’s except yours, so live it to the fullest.”

This article appeared in The Herald Bulletin.