BY SUPERINTENDENT PATRICK ADKINS
I have to admit that this year’s graduation really snuck up on me. It seems like we just returned from spring break and now here we are at graduation. To be honest up until a couple of days ago I did not have a graduation speech written.
I began thinking about how I could get a speech written so Principal Gary Steyer would stop bugging me.
Most of you know our youngest daughter, Kennedy, who is a freshman at Kent State. She’s home now and knew I was stressing a little at my lack of preparation and she told me about Chat GPT.
“Dad, all the kids at college are using it to help them write their papers,” she said.
Chat GPT is a AI Chat Bot that uses natural language to create human-like conversations. Bingo that’s it. I’ll use Chat GPT to write my speech.
I started with the welcome to see how it would go: So here we go.
My Chat GPT welcome: Good afternoon and welcome to the graduation ceremony for Port Clinton City Schools Class of 2023. It is my pleasure to stand before you today as we celebrate the achievements of our graduates. On behalf of the faculty, staff, and administration I want to extend a warm welcome to all the parents, grandparents, family members, friends, and distinguished guests who have joined us on this special occasion. Your unwavering support and encouragement have helped make this day possible.
Not too bad, right? But that’s just a welcome. I pushed a little further. I always like to do student shout outs as a way to personalize my speeches so I shared some information about two of our students to see how it would go. Here it is:
Dear Claudia, I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you for being such an amazing person and role model. Your positive attitude and sense of humor make a huge impact on everyone around you, and I’m constantly inspired by your resilience and determination.
Dear Taylor, I just wanted to take a moment to express my gratitude for having you in my life. You truly are one of a kind, with your funny and unique personality. Taylor, it’s always a joy to be around you and your positive energy.
Okay, I have to admit that one was a little weird. There are a lot of computer programs, apps and filters that can save us a little time, maybe look or sound a little better but in most cases they mask our true identity and replace us with who we wish we were or who others want us to be.
They hide our flaws, our scars and those little things that make us special, things that make us who we are. I graduated in the class of 1984 and all of my classmates and I are now in our mid-50’s. They post pictures of themselves with filters that erase all the lines in their faces and the gray in their hair and really just make themselves look really strange. It’s not who they really are.
And using a computer app like Chat GPT to try and write a graduation speech doesn’t work because it lacks feeling and emotion. It fails to recognize the greatness of people like staffers Lori Scalf and Kathie Meek, who will be retiring at the end of this school year. We thank them for their commitment to our students, school and community. We’ll miss you both!
It fails to recognize the authenticity of such a wonderful class. When I think about this class I think of those who did things their way and followed their heart in pursuing what made them happy regardless if they were popular or not. This class is full of students who have taken their own path, without caving to the critics or peer pressure (which is very hard in high school) but rather chose to do it their own way with their own personal flair and I love that. A few that come to mind to me include:
Mia Sanchez – A young lady who I’ve known for just about all her school age years. I have enjoyed watching her grow into a confident two-time National DECA qualifier, Ottawa County Track Meet Champion in the shot and discuss. And she did it her way.
Noah Yurista who chose to follow his heart by participating in a non-sanctioned OHSAA sport of
bodybuilding and being ranked as one of the top teenage bodybuilders in the country.
Adam Thorbahn – All-time basketball leading scorer, committing to play football at the University Findlay while still being one of the nicest young men in Port Clinton High School.
Claudia Gillum, who silenced all doubters by returning from tearing her ACL her junior year to compete in all three sports seasons her senior year.
Diego Lucero, who started every day with a smile and attempted to put one on the face of everyone he met. Each morning Diego was ready to share a really corny joke with Officer Vance and anyone else who would listen.
Alyiah Wharton, McKenzie Martinez and Addie Siefke. It’s been great watching you all grow from young girls on the softball field into three wonderful young ladies and student athletes. We’ll miss you.
Cadence Wallace, Gracie Rohr, Oliva Perry and Serina Lewis for inspiring young girls to follow their dreams by being part of our first OHSAA sanctioned Women’s wrestling team. A Special shout out to Cadence who finished second in the state!
Ethan Ranzenberger, who refused to leave the field after his final football game at True Lay Stadium and when asked about it at his signing with Concordia University, he said “I didn’t want it to end. I love this school.”
There are many more that I could mention, but I need to keep my remarks to five minutes. Not only is this class special individually, but they have collectively experienced great achievements but also heartbreak as a group.
They celebrated their sixth SBC girls swimming Championship in seven years. Including five in a row.
The Boy’s tennis team finished undefeated (14-0) and SBC champions this year.
Both band and choir qualified for their state competition and the band earned an Excellent rating at their state competition.
Earning Ohio’s Best Communities for Music Education five years in a row.
Performed perhaps the best musical in “Anastasia” which featured the extremely talented vocals of several of these graduates — Chance Sayre, Evan Crow, Lillie Rolen, and Tyler Rodruque-Hejhal.
And three members of this class earned their Eagle Scout badges. Owen Auxter, Tyler Rodrique-Hejhal and Nick Nellett.
As we celebrate today let us not forget the loss this class has experienced. We have an open chair today in memory of Harley Dilley, who we celebrate along with his classmates. In Harley’s memory an Eastern Redbud tree was planted in our high school courtyard, which blooms with beautiful pink flowers, Harley’s favorite color.
There are no shortcuts that can be taken to adequately capture the feeling, love and spirit of those graduating here today. Webster defines authenticity as “true to one’s own personality, spirit or character.”
Authenticity builds trust. Today’s world is full of people just waiting to criticize others for what they believe, who they are and the choices they make. The world needs more people like you, who hold sacred their own beliefs and values.
We all have a book with our life story written in it. Keep writing your own stories. Write the next chapters as you have written these. In your own words and in your own way. Make each chapter great and write it with no apologies and no regrets.
In closing I wish you the best. Congratulations, you did it your way.
Oh yeah, I have one more thing…. Hey Diego… What did the horse say after it tripped? Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t giddyup!
We love you guys and wish you the best. Go Skins!