A new beginning

Published 12:06 pm Monday, June 1, 2015

Abbey Cole, co-valedictorian at Brandywine, delivers a speech to her classmates. Cole thanked her family, friends and God for her achievements. (Leader photo/AMBROSIA NELDON)

Abbey Cole, co-valedictorian at Brandywine, delivers a speech to her classmates. Cole thanked her family, friends and God for her achievements. (Leader photo/AMBROSIA NELDON)

Brandywine graduates 94 into class of 2015

As the class of 2015 celebrated their graduation Sunday, the focus was not on closing a chapter, ending an era or completing a grand finale. Instead, Brandywine graduates decided to focus on a happier topic: a new beginning.

Brandywine Community Schools graduated 94 students into the class of 2015 Sunday. Of those, 48 will attend a community college, 37 will attend a four-year college or university and three intend to join the military.

During their graduation celebration, Brandywine leaders welcomed to the stage co-valedictorians Krystal Bunch, Abbey Cole and Alec DeJonge, board president Janice Exner and guest speaker Kate Chappel, of WNDU.

“As I was preparing this speech, I thought of what the best piece of advice would be that I could leave you with,” said co-valedictorian Krystal Bunch. “At the end of ‘Bravehart,’ William Wallace says, ‘Every man dies. Not every man really lives.’ I encourage you to go out and really live.”

Bunch wished her classmates success — but told them to look carefully at what they considered a successful life.

“Measure your level of success with happiness, not the money you make,” she said.

Abbey Cole, co-valedictorian, encouraged her classmates to go out into the world and make a difference.

“I am here to tell you today that you and I can change the world for the better,” she said. “It won’t be easy, and there will be a lot of hard work, but you can do it!”

Alec DeJonge, the third valedictorian, reminded graduates that it doesn’t matter if their paths are laid yet, only that they continue to work toward finding a path that leads to happiness.

“Some of you have no clue what you want to do with the rest of your lives, but that’s the beautiful thing about today. Today is just the first step into our futures,” he said. “You may change your mind a few times, but that’s OK. Whatever you choose, I hope it makes you happy.”

Brandywine salutatorian Zach Schmidt enticed plenty of chuckles from the gymnasium full of parents, friends and family members as he explained a bet he won with his mom. She challenged him some time ago to earn more varsity letters and better grades than she had — and it earned him $20.

“My advice for my little sister, Meggles, is get in on a bet like that with Mom, but ask for more than $20. It doesn’t go that far these days,” he said.

Schmidt said when he found out he was salutatorian, his competitiveness made him slightly disappointed.

“Salutatorians are just a few GPA points away from being valedictorian, and you know what that means? That means you’re first loser,” he joked. “But then I looked into famous salutatorians.”

Among many Schmidt found, the most popular names included Carrie Underwood, Albert Einstein and Michelle Obama.

“I may not sing as well as Carrie Underwood, and maybe I’ll never be the genius Albert Einstein was, but maybe I’ll be like Michelle Obama and marry well. Right, Dad?” he said.

Board president Janice Exner left the graduating class of 2015 with some inspiring words.

“Today we are celebrating your commencement. Commencement means you start a new beginning. From this point on, your life will be filled with more decisions, freedom and responsibility than ever before,” she said. “But you can do it.”