Board President's speech to Class of 2020

By School Board President Kaylyn Mitchell

It is a privilege and a great pleasure to be here with all of you (virtually) for the opportunity to address our 2020 graduates, your families, and our community. Graduates, you did it! All of your hard work and dedication have led you to this amazing accomplishment. As we celebrate and congratulate our graduates for this milestone, I would like to also take a moment to acknowledge our faculty, teachers, administrators, parents, guardians, advocates, and friends, who supported our students and made this day possible. This certainly isn't what we envisioned for graduation, but I am amazed at the thoughtfulness and care that went into organizing this virtual celebration.

2020 has taken a toll on all of us, in varying degrees. For many students, the senior year is a definitive year. It is a time of lasts. Last time you walk down the hall of your High School Building. Last high school dance (prom). Graduation Parties. Last memories for life as you know it before you delve into the new world of adulthood. You did not anticipate the heartbreak of saying goodbye to your high school days prematurely. I won't pretend to know how you feel, seniors, particularly because I graduated what feels like a million years ago (kidding)….but I am amazed at your resilience.

See Kaylyn Mitchell's speech at the 39:30 mark.

I've been reminded many of you were born in the shadow of 9/11. You were born into a world where you had no choice but to be resilient. There is a silver lining to overcoming such difficult challenges, however uncomfortable they feel at the time. A writer named Terry Fallis once said, “A life without challenge, a life without hardship, a life without purpose, seems pale and pointless. With challenges come perseverance and gumption. With hardship come resilience and resolve. With purpose come strength and understanding.”

Resilience…You see, adversity is one of your biggest advantages. Not only have I observed this in others, but I know this from personal experience. Stubborn as a mule and determined to be completely independent, I left my home in Southeastern Louisiana at the age of 19 to join the United States Army. Let me be completely honest…I never envisioned joining the military growing up. Not only did I not envision joining the military, I absolutely did not anticipate being deployed to Iraq on the front lines of Operation Iraqi Freedom. After raising my right hand, I was all set for Basic Training flying out September 18, 2001. Some of you are putting that together….yes one week to the day after the tragic events of September 11th. That…was not part of the plan.

After my husband and I both finished our time in the United States Army, we focused on our careers and eventually moved to Pennsylvania to raise our family here in Quakertown. For those of you that don't know my husband is also a Quakertown High School graduate (hi honey). After a couple of years, I had the crazy idea to get more involved in my community and run for School Board. And let me tell you, politics, even at the School Board level, is not for the faint-hearted. Running a campaign was exhausting, despite how much I loved knocking on doors and hearing stories from our residents. At times, unfair and even mean spirited attacks came from what felt like every angle. Being elected and serving as a QCSD Board Director and now as your Board President has been one of the more difficult yet rewarding experiences of my lifetime. Had I not decided to pursue it, I wouldn't have met some of the most incredible friends and wouldn't have been able to have a major influence on the education we provide to our students.

Resilience…Looking back, all of the sacrifice, all of the adversity, the sleepless nights, the stress-filled days…I do not regret. Oscar Ice said “Challenges in and of themselves do nothing. But they create circumstances where growth can occur in ways it can’t while sailing in smoother waters.” A highly successful Duke University graduate Lisa Borders once said, "Adversity is like the agitator in the washing machine. It beats the heck out of the clothes, but they're clean when they come out." Graduates, you will not forget this moment in history and it will be "the year you graduated during a pandemic." This experience will build the muscle you need to dust yourself off and keep moving forward. Use it to be determined, persistent, and unstoppable in designing the future of your dreams.

So graduates, no matter where your journey started, you have made it here today. I want to acknowledge all of you – the accomplished, creative, talented, and all-around outstanding members of the class of 2020! I wish you all the best in whatever is next for you. Because we will be rooting for you!
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