By CHERIL VERNON
Ninety Westwood High School seniors walked across the stage during commencement Friday at Panther Stadium to receive their high school diplomas, starting a new era in their lives as adults.
Valedictorian Tyler Vintila encouraged his classmates to remember that failure can lead to success and builds strong character.
“I have done a lot, failed a lot, so then I found success,” Vintila said about his academic achievements. “I implore you, be excited, go into the world and fail. Be excited and be eager to go for big job, or the top rank or the shot at fame and do it time and time again. I can promise you, you will want to quit — because life isn’t a walk in the park. It’s diligent hard work.
“Strength that has grown out of hardship and discipline that is gained out of failure is what it takes to be successful,” Vintila continued. “Sure, we learn from our mistakes but failure more than anything begets strong character.”
Salutatorian Heather Wooden thanked the faculty for leading the Class of 2013 down the road to graduation.
“We can’t thank you enough for the homework, stress and loss of sleep you’ve given us over the past four years,” Wooden joked. “Even though we may not express our gratitude as much as we should, we thank you so much for investing in our education.
“You were the ones that took the extra hour out of your day to make sure we make our goals. You are one of the underlying forces that pushed us closer to success.”
Wooden dedicated her speech as an opportunity to share her relationship with Christ and how that has helped her become who she is today.
Before building a relationship with Christ, her life was controlled by a thousand fears.
“Fear controlled every decision in my life. That was until I realized that I had nothing to worry about, nothing to fear,” Wooden said.
Wooden asked the Class of 2013 to not be afraid.
“Be bold. Take chances and be diligent in all of your work because its time to face reality,” Wooden said. “We are all about to go out on own journeys — whether its into the workforce, college or military and we won’t have our parents to hold us accountable for every little thing we do.
“It’s our time to take on the world. As we journey on to the next stages of our lives — college, jobs, marriage and kids — don’t be afraid of them.”
Wooden said to embrace every moment.
“Do not fear what will become, but rather enjoy what is right in front of you. Chase the passion you know you possess and see them through to the end,” Wooden said. “But above all else, I hope you establish a relationship with our Lord and Savior and truly receive all He has to offer you in life.”
Faculty choice speaker Madalyn Stauffer thanked the teachers who taught her lessons in life, like Mrs. Bundy, who gave Madalyn her first “B.”
“You were the first person who taught me that you have to work for what you want and you get what you deserve,” Stauffer said, also noting that Mr. Ross taught her to keep pushing on no matter what.
While each speaker also thanked the parents, the school, administration and community for their support over the years, Stauffer also thanked the people who gave the Class of 2013 the most happy memories — their friends.
“Whether you are in caps and gowns, are undergraduates or already out of school, our friends are the reason we have happy memories,” Stauffer said. “You have known our pain and difficulties. You know how messy our lives are and we couldn’t have made it through without you.”