‘Dare to reach higher’: Chelsea celebrates class of 2024 at graduation ceremony

Published 7:36 am Wednesday, May 22, 2024


HOMEWOOD – As Chelsea High School seniors gathered inside Samford University’s Pete Hanna Center on Tuesday, May 21, a common theme rang throughout the building during the 2024 graduation ceremony.

It was a theme that took the lessons of the last four years of high school and turned them into the foundation for building a better future.

Principal Dr. Brandon Turner used an ancient poem to get his words of encouragement across, Salutatorian Noah Pontius used the example of Icarus, Valedictorian Elias Serrano talked of the old tale of Cantuna in his hometown of Quito, Ecuador and class president Logan Sanders focused on school spirit and a quote from Snoop Dogg.

It was a fitting end to a special journey for the class of 2024, which included 310 graduates and more than $7.9 million in scholarships.

“Let us reflect on the growth, friendships forged, lessons learned and countless memories that we’ve made as a class,” Sanders said during his speech to the graduating class. “Trust me, we made some good ones. Memories like beating Oak Mountain in what seemed like everything, tailgating out before football games, sneaking baby powder into the student section—sorry for that one Dr. Turner—and supporting each other in every sport.”

Those were a few of the memories Sanders relayed to his classmates as examples of what made their time together special, before he shifted into the next phase of life.

“I extend my heartfelt congratulations to the class of 2024,” he said. “As you embark on the next chapters of your lives, I urge you to work hard to perfect whatever it is you may do. As Snoop Dogg once said, ‘If it’s flipping hamburgers at McDonald’s, be the best hamburger flipper in the world.’ Whatever you do, you have to master the craft. Remember the values instilled in you during your time hear at Chelsea, and embrace the opportunities that lie ahead. No matter what, Chelsea will always be your home.”

It was that transition in life that Turner also focused on, telling the seniors that this serves as a special moment in their lives.

“Yesterday, I talked to you all as we were at practice and I spoke to you about the magnitude of graduating,” he said. “How it’s a time of both reflection and acknowledging that this also serves as almost a right of passage to bigger things. In order to move forward, one must possess the desire, the courage and conviction to navigate the uncertainty of the open seas. To reach past the boundaries of the familiar and break into the heights of destinations that are unexplored. As you hear this, it can initially sound very daunting and even frightening, but I encourage you to not be deterred. For, in life, even in challenging circumstances, hope is ever present for those with faith. Faith in themselves, faith in their goals and faith in their resolve to have courage in upholding the conviction of their character.”

Those daunting tasks is where Pontius used the story of Icarus as an example not to doubt themselves nor be afraid if the fail.

The story of Icarus focuses on he and his father. The two built a set of wings to escape prison by jumping out of a prison window with those wings. Icarus, however, flew too close to the sun and his wings, made of wax, melted, causing him to fall to the ocean.

Pontius, however, turned that into a positive.

“This story is often used as a cautionary tale, warning people not to get caught up in their pride or their greed, less they too will fall,” Pontius said. “Well, there’s also an inspiring interpretation to this story. One of my favorite quotes of all time is, ‘Despite falling, Icarus flew.’ It recognizes the fact, that, if only briefly, Icarus soared high into the sky and felt the warmth of the sun on his skin. Even if that same sun melted the wax of his wings, it illuminated Icarus as he rose higher and higher. If you, like Icarus, happen to fall on your way up, don’t be sad that you failed. Instead, take pride in the fact that you dreamed of flying and had the courage to do so. Fortunately, unlike Icarus, we have the ground to catch us when we fall. We have the opportunity to pick ourselves back up and rise with an even stronger pair of wings. As you go out into the world, don’t be afraid. Chase the sun and never forget the feeling of flying. Work hard and dream even harder.”

He added that graduating from Chelsea isn’t a goodbye to high school or a preparation for the next phase of life, it’s a celebration of what they have accomplished and all they know they will accomplish as future leaders.

It led directly into another strong comparison of this transition in life as Serrano, born in Quito, Ecuador, shared a popular tale from his hometown about a local cathedral.

It focuses on Cantuna, an architect and builder tasked with building the church of San Francisco. He had to complete it in six months or he wouldn’t be paid and would be in jail for life.

Eventually at the finish line with too much work left, he made a deal with the devil to help finish the work. Cantuna, however, used a trick by taking a stone from the construction area and hiding it. When the devil thought the work was done, he confronted Cantuna to take his soul, but that’s when the last stone was revealed, showcasing the words, ‘Satan’s contribution to the glory of God.’ The devil destroyed the final stone, thus saving Cantuna’s soul.

“What I’ve gathered from this tale is that it is important to do the same as Cantuna,” Serrano said. “What has brought us to this end goal today is to first know and truly believe that it is possible. Before any great achievement, the first step is to believe in the ability, as Cantuna believed in the possibility to get the church done.”

Turner closed his remarks, addressing the class one final time, by telling them to not only chase their dreams and find success, but to think about how they do it.

“How you interact with and treat others is a significant part of your character,” he said. “Consider the impact that you can have by constantly seeking to have your best self on display at all times. We live in a world where it’s often time more popular to tear down others rather than build them up, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Think of the impact you can have through encouragement. When you succeed, reach to help others succeed. Be an example of integrity and genuine concern when others need assistance. Be a leader to do the right thing, both in words and deeds and you will find many people will inherently be more willing to join you in your endeavors for good. In doing these things, you enrich others, along with yourself, and you will also reap blessings because of it. That helps reach an equally important aspect of faith—faith that you can help make a difference and create a better world for us all.”

He urged each graduate to embrace that challenge by having full belief in themselves and those around them.

“Each of you have goals and dreams, embrace them, and commit the actions necessary in order to see them through,” he said. “Don’t ever settle for a limited view of yourself and what you can achieve. I want you to always dare to reach higher, and in doing so, you will bring about a better world for you and those around you.”