Every Student, Every Day, A Success! What does this mean?
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Payton Best's Class of 2017 GISH graduation speech

The following is Payton Best's graduation speech to the Grand Island Senior High Class of 2017, titled "One Foundation":

Mrs. Bonnie Hinkle, President of the Board of Education; Dr. Tawana Grover, Superintendent of Schools; Principal, Jeff Gilbertson; Faculty, family, friends and Grand Island Senior High Class of 2017, congratulations.

Today is a ceremony and celebration of our accomplishments; today is a reflection of our journey as we make plans to move forward. Our education here at Grand Island Senior High may have ended, but the foundation that we have built will be the basis for the rest of our lives.

Not to talk myself up or anything, but I have spent a majority of my free time watching HGTV and home improvement networks ... and might I say, I consider myself to be fairly knowledgeable on the subject! As the homeowners work to design beautiful kitchens and remodel outdated bathrooms, there is always the drama of their worst nightmare: a cracked foundation. In order to carry out the construction and build on the home, the foundation must be sound and sturdy, for it is the basis and dependency of the building upon it. Similarly, as we go on to create our own journeys and experiences, we will always come back to our home values and our foundation.

Students here at Grand Island Senior High were granted a multitude of life lessons, all contributing to our education foundation. Class of 2017, together we embraced the diversity of our student body, we learned how to empower ourselves and one another; we created a foundation.

High School is supposedly when you learn the most valuable lessons in life's journey, and Grand Island Senior High has granted us an opportunity for an extensive and rigorous education. The classes offered a fit to every type of student on every type of level.

Moreover, Grand Island Senior High granted us the education on relationships, tolerance and universal understanding. Walking into a classroom at this school, I cross paths with people of different cultures, backgrounds and beliefs. Teachers and staff taught me the curriculum and the subjects, but you, my peers, taught the life lessons.

Our education at Senior High went beyond the textbooks, for it enabled us to build relationships and friendships with students that may not have the same family dynamic, the same economic status or the same ideas of worship. We received an all-inclusive education that demonstrated the importance of tolerance and acceptance as we studied along with students of all stories. We sat at a lunch table that seated students of all backgrounds. We listened to their traditions, their views and opinions, their experiences. We shared our own personal stories and ideas. We learned from each other and built on to each other's foundation. We broadened our knowledge on the world that we were growing up in and we got insight on the many different ways of living around us.

We were a class involved in a vast variety of clubs and organizations offered through Senior High, and in the classroom, we came together. Here today, we come together. Class of 2017, we built a community and a connection. We embrace the diversity within our school and we celebrate it.

Throughout our journey at Grand Island Senior High, we were taught the fundamentals of geometry, the proper way to structure a sentence and the sciences of the human body. We were taught good study habits and responsibility. We were taught to learn from each other and embrace the differences among us. Most influentially, however, we were taught to empower ourselves. As students attending Senior High, we were constantly exposed to an inspiring example set by the administration, staff, educators and each other. It was stressed throughout our journey the significance of empowerment and building of confidence. We learned that through each other, we could amount to anything.

By supporting each student and offering encouragement, we build one another up. We build strength. Grand Island Senior High emphasized the possibility and opportunity that lays ahead of each one of us. We saw strong women hold high administrative positions throughout our education. We watched men share their passion of teaching as they built upon our academic journey. Our fellow peers and classmates of all races and cultures demonstrated accomplishments in art shows, speech competitions, football games, track meets, robotics. Senior High emphasised the importance of empowerment of each and every student, for we truly are "better together."

Class of 2017, we have the rest of our lives ahead of us. Behind us, we have a strong network of connections, friendships and experiences: we have a foundation. Our high school journey granted us not only a sturdy academic basis, but education in compassion, understanding and acceptance.

We were granted this great space. A framework and base for something of our own creation. Some of us may go on to construct a twenty-story high tower, with waterfalls and glass elevators. Others of us may build a loving home to fill with a family. The creations that we may establish are endless, for we were each given an opportunity, a foundation. We have put in the work of pouring the concrete and installing the formwork. (Who knows! Maybe HGTV will consider us for their next episode!) Now, today, we begin the process of living up to the strength of our potential.

Our legacies must embrace the life lessons that we have learned here at Grand Island Senior High. We must continue the celebration of our differences. We must remember the significance of empowerment in ourselves and in others. We must stand united against intolerance and teach acceptance and understanding. Stay focused on the success of your building and your future, but never forget the importance of the willingness to help others build their futures.

Because of the values and lessons that were taught at Grand Island Senior High, we are the class that will build houses to unite, never walls to separate and denigrate. Grand Island Senior High Class of 2017, congratulations. Together, we have created a foundation. Let us build from here.

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