I was here for a good time…

By the time I walk across the stage to accept my diploma, I will have spent 4,647 days within North Platte schools. Twelve years, eight months, twenty-three days. In kindergarten, my class all pitched in and got me a Build-a-Bear following my mom’s death. In fourth grade, I made my own elementary school newspaper. In sixth grade, my dad got remarried and during sophomore year, I got my first car. Like most people, I didn’t really realize the time passing around me. It’s like one day you wake up with your acceptance letter in one hand and your diploma in the other, and it is equal parts terrifying and exhilarating.

I never thought I’d make it this far, and whenever I tell people that they panic, thinking that I used to have some plan to off myself, but that’s not the case. I could just never picture my future to this point, and at the moment I can envision it because it’s so close, but when I was 14 and walking up to the high school for the first time as a student and not a visitor, it was so far away. I watched my brother graduate during my first year of middle school and I watched my sister do the same during my first year of high school. And now, in 16 days, I’ll walk across the same stage, and I was convinced that I would never share in that experience.

It would be incredibly selfish for me to act like I made this far all on my own, though.

To my dad, Steen, whose name I proudly bear in my middle name: You are the best supporter I could have ever asked for in this world. Despite everything our family has been through, you never let me fall through the cracks. When Mom was sick, you still helped me learn to tie my shoes by the end of the first semester in kindergarten so our class could have an ice cream party. When money was tight and you were working 70 hours a week just to make ends meet for our family, you still taught me how to do my math homework. Because of you and your unwavering support, I am confident and sure that I will truly never be alone in this life. You’re the one who taught me that as long as I do the best I know I can do, then I did well.

To my siblings: Caelen, we may not always get along the best sometimes because you’re a Cancer and I’m a Gemini, but I love you all the same. Aili, I don’t know how I was so fortunate to end up with such a caring big sister, but I’m grateful that I did. Gianna, you may not fully realize it yet, but you are the coolest 7-year-old in the world and I am the luckiest big sister out there. Being a middle child with a youngest child complex may have been frustrating at times, but having the opportunity to be best friends with all my siblings is something that I will never, ever take for granted.

To Grandma Patty, Grandpa Denny, Grandpa Kirk, and Vicki: You guys have been instrumental in making me the person I am today. Each of you have dedicated countless hours to my life while I grew up so I always had someone to lean on. Whether it’s eating taquitos and watching Days of Our Lives at Grandma’s house or splitting a pizza and enjoying Ridiculousness at Grandpa Kirk’s house, every minute I’ve gotten to spend with you guys has been a minute well spent. Even if we don’t always see eye to eye on everything (politics are the worst), I love all four of you guys more than you’ll ever know.

To my teachers, specifically Ms. Larson and Mrs. Werkmeister: You two have had such a profound impact on my life and I’m so grateful to have such strong women to look up to. Ms. Larson, you helped me find my voice and for that I can never repay you. You pushed me so far outside my comfort zone and I hated you at times for it, but that pushing is what helped me develop into the confident and headstrong person I’m proud to be. Mrs. Werkmeister, you’re one of the most genuine and kind people I have ever had the chance to know and you taught me that it’s okay to unapologetically be myself. You taught me that hard work will always pay off and reap great rewards. The lessons I have learned from you will extend far beyond the classroom. Thank you to both of you for creating safe places where I felt comfortable to express myself.

Finally, to my fellow newspaper members: From the hours we’ve spent playing card games on the bus, to the work nights full of pizza and laughs, I found my home in room 1403 among my classmates that became more like siblings. Spending every day with you guys may have been rough at times, but I’m overall a better person for having spent the first 90 minutes of my day, every day, alongside you all for the past three years. Leaving this program behind is going to hurt, but I’m fully confident that I’m leaving it in strong, capable hands.

High school was an adventure. Yeah, that feels like the right way to describe it. I don’t know if high school was the best years of my life. I feel like if they were, then it’s all just downhill from here. With that being said, I can’t discredit my time here. I walked through these doors as a naive, timid little girl, and I will walk out of these doors a little more experienced and a lot less afraid. I’ll make my way across that stage with a good head on my shoulders and joy in my heart, and that’s all I could have hoped for.