SALINEVILLE - Find what makes you happy and do it. That was the message of this year's feature speaker, Sondra Backus, to Southern Local's graduating class of 2014.
Backus, an alumnus of the Southern Local's Class of 1971, knows a thing or two about happiness. As a teacher at Southern Local, she spent her career doing what made her happiest-preparing students for bright futures.
"Mrs. Backus optimizes what we're all about here at Southern," said Superintendent John Wilson as he introduced Backus, who is now retired after 30 years of teaching.
Some 63 graduating seniors let their caps go flying in celebration of their graduation Friday at Southern Local. (Photo by Devin Bezeredi)
Backus recalled her own eagerness, as a graduating senior, to get out into the world and begin life, so she kept her message Friday during the annual commencement ceremony simple and succinct: Above all else, pursue that which makes you happy.
"Find something that you want to do that makes you happy, and do it," said Backus.
The longtime educator also recalled the happiness brought to her by the class of 2014 when they were students in her own classroom. She told those in attendance that watching her students grow to reach the completion of their education at Southern brings her the deepest sense of satisfaction and happiness. She recalled how, like the class of 2014, she sat at her own graduation wondering what she would do in life to make herself happy.
Backus found the answer, she said, in teaching. She said she hopes the class of 2014 will ask themselves this same simple question and follow their dreams to fruition.
"It's up to you how happy you want to be," said Backus
Salutatorian Kaylee McCaffrey was confident that her classmates had the intelligence and will to make their dreams a reality. She pointed out that among the 63 students in the class of 2014 , nearly 30 were graduating with honors.
"We all have what it takes to succeed and do great things," said McCaffrey.
With the class flower being Forget-me-nots, McCaffrey said she would not soon forget her classmates, who, for the last several years, have been a major part of her life.
Valedictorian Tesa Calvin looked toward the future in her address to classmates.
"Commencement, in many ways, means a new beginning," said Calvin.
She said the bond between her and the 2014 seniors is one that will transcend the distance between them all as they head out on different paths to success.
This year's class motto was "Don't tell us the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon." Calvin noted how fitting the motto was for a class so highly decorated for its academic performance.
In perhaps their last act together, seniors gathered for the traditional tossing of their caps in the school's courtyard. As caps flew and smiles beamed from bright young faces, the tremendous bond they share and the promise their young lives hold was felt by all present.