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A foundation of excellence propels Class of 2009

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By Carol A. Clark

The demand Los Alamos High School places on its students is what leads them to be tougher, brighter, more confident and ultimately more successful, Mick Matuszak said during his speech to the 2009 graduating class in Griffith Gymnasium Saturday.

The students chose Matuszak as their teacher speaker for which he said, “I am truly very honored.”

“It’s tough to put together a speech that can capture this type of audience. Many of you just want to get up and move on with your life and put the high school years and experience behind you. I was one of those students 22 years ago from this high school – I know the feeling.”

Matuszak is an athletic trainer who returned to teach at LAHS.

“Life is about goals, choices and decisions,” he said. “Be yourself, look for a passion and you will find happiness.”

Student Speaker Chelsea McLean addressed the packed gymnasium.

“Being here now and reflecting upon the past, one word seems to sum up how it is possible – relativity,” she said. “How else could an hour-and-40-minute class seem endless but yet our past 12 years of education seem momentary. I suppose though, I can only speak for students. For parents, on the other hand, teenager mood swings, endless homework help, and daily complaining made certain these 12 years didn't go by any slower.”

McLean expressed nostalgia about the times the graduates have all shared, optimism about their futures and thanks for all those who helped them along the way.

“As strange as it sounds to move a tassel across a perfectly geometrical cap, I know every graduate is on the edge of their seats to do so,” she said. “I would assume that they most highly anticipate this moment for the freedom. Freedom from high school, from bells, from parents, but walking across this stage and receiving your diploma means a lot more than just freedom. This day, this hour, marks the future and all that it entails for each graduating individual.”

As McLean planned to write her speech, she recalled the first one she heard more than 10 years ago. “At my sister’s graduation, I sat in awe while one speech captivated all that was the high school experience, while still anticipating the future and, not to mention, keeping the audience in stitches,” she said. “Well, I assumed I could accomplish this much with more than 10 years to compile my thoughts. It figures though, in true high school fashion, I wrote it the night before it was due.”

McLean decided to focus on the common theme of all “great” graduation speeches, recognition of the past, gratitude for the present and optimism for the future.

“We arrived here at prestigious Los Alamos High School as scared lonely freshman, staring up at the upperclassmen in A wing thinking, “Will I ever be that cool, worry free, or even that tall? Now, after a whirlwind adventure we call high school, we depart, wiser, more mature, and hopefully taller seniors,” she said.

The present should be easy enough to sum up in a five minute interval, McLean said, and suggested her peers look around and try to soak it all in because just as in life, “you never know when this speech will end.”

“The future is the time that is causing you to sit on the end of your seats and check your watches,” she said. “It’s the time in which most of you will start living independently. Thankfully though, we will be standing upon the fundamental blocks of life so gratefully built by our elders. The future can mean many different things to different people, but for all I hope it means finding yourself and upon that discovery, happiness. Your teachers have given you the essential education you need to succeed, your parents a sense of morals and personal boundaries, and friends – well – they can be credited for good times. Ultimately though, only you can make yourself happy and that is what I’ve come to believe is most important in life.”

The class of 2009, some 280 graduates, chose black and gold as its colors, the dandelion as its flower, “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey as its song and as its motto, “Why so serious?”

Don Taylor’s Photography is the official photographer for the 2009 graduation event. Taylor took a picture of each graduate during the ceremony and those photos are available at Don Taylor’s Photography on Central Avenue.

Contact Carol A. Clark at lanews@lamonitor.com or (505) 662-4186 ext. 25. Read hear blog at www.newsextras.wordpress.com.