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Graduation Speech: Salutatorian Jonas Sims

Hello teachers, students, and parents of the Utah Connections Academy.

I would like to start by thanking all of our parents for helping us during this important time in our lives. Whether you started online school before or during the pandemic, the amount of work that our parents are doing for us every single day is something I think we will only truly understand when we one day have kids ourselves. Since they brought us into this world, they provide us with everything we need, and they keep giving us their love and attention. I think I'm speaking for all the students when I say: “We love you”.

Dear teachers, I think I might be right in saying that it is a little more challenging to connect with students over the internet compared to face to face in the classroom, but I want to thank you for reaching out to us and for all of the work you put in this year making a curriculum that we can understand just by looking at our screens and attending live lessons.

As for us students, we all know that going through school up until now was not always easy. What might have felt like countless months of hard work has now come to an end. I think we can all agree that we haven’t thought about what it actually means to be an adult as much as we do now. Time is passing surprisingly quickly and looking back it may feel like our elementary and middle school years flew by like a daydream. Now that we are done with high school we're going to be moving on to college or working jobs.

I know that normally in a speech like this people say something motivational or something along those lines, but sometimes phrases like “never give up, stay resilient, and you got this” can get repetitive. For this reason, I want to focus on something that was arguably the most important thing I've learned this year:

Things can change and they will change, but one thing is for sure: your work pays off. Things can change in the sense that if you're in a tough spot right now or you're feeling depressed, or you're going through something, it will change. And things will change in the sense that sometimes you can't stop the change and you can't do anything about it, but that doesn't mean the change has to be bad. Sometimes, things don’t go our way at the moment, but it is important to remember that no matter what you are doing in your life, your work is going to pay off. It’s only a matter of time if you keep trying. Changes can be good and will be good, depending on what you're working towards and how you're working for it.

After all we've been through as parents, teachers, and students, and all the time we put into our lives up until right now and this moment, think about what we can accomplish within the next 10 years.

I think the best thing I can tell you right now is not to look at your life in the short term but look at it in the long term.

Think about the time it took you to become who you are today, and how fast the time passed you, almost in a way that you didn't even realize it was going as fast as it was. Now you have the rest of your life ahead of you to change you and the circumstances affecting you and the people around you.

Think about all the friends we knew and about the new friends we've made and realize that the time we have with the people closest to us is limited and we should cherish them and not take them for granted.

I know these are more life tips from another high schooler, but it's only natural to learn and it's only beneficial to learn. I think school is a perfect example of how things you might not think you will need in the future when it comes to knowledge, can actually be very useful to you. You should try to seek as much knowledge as you possibly can, especially now, so there's never a moment where you think it's too late or you wish you knew before.

Again, I know this is life advice coming from a high schooler at a graduation speech, but parents, you can be the best teachers. There might even be some things you are too embarrassed about, or some things you might think are taboo, or just some things you think your kids don’t need to hear, but we are not kids anymore. We are going into this world as new adults and any knowledge you throw our way is a godsend.

We students can be the best teachers for the Next Generation if we really take the time to learn not only from the mistakes of the past generation but improve off of everyone around us, and everyone we talk to in our daily lives.

I would encourage everyone here today to truly get to know the people you spend your daily lives with and form deep bonds and relationships with your friends and family.

Sometimes we think we know somebody just because of the short time we have spent with them, and especially now when we're making this transition, communication is key.

Talk with your parents, talk with your grandparents, talk with your teachers, and talk with your friends; because at the end of the day - Knowledge is power, and I really believe that to be true.

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