Column: Thompson class president sparks thoughts of perseverance

Published 1:37 pm Thursday, May 23, 2024

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Publisher 

Sitting inside Bartow Arena on Tuesday, May 21, tears started to fill my eyes. I tried the old blink fast enough to stop them trick, but the words of Abigail Bess resonated too truthfully for me to have any control.

Addressing the Thompson High School senior class as their class president, Bess opened up by sharing the difficulties she faced her sophomore year after the passing of her mother.

“When my mother passed away, it felt like the world stopped,” she said. “My mom was such a huge part of my life and in many of the lives in this room. She cared so much for each of us and loved being a part of our school. I can without a doubt say she would be so proud of each of you.”

As she spoke, you couldn’t help but feel the passion of her words and the impact her mom Deanna Bess had on her.

It especially hit home with me, as I immediately thought back to my grandfather’s passing during my sophomore year of high school. One of my best friends in life, it hit me hard, and I struggled mightily finishing that school year.

What particularly stood out about Abigail’s speech was the end. “I can without a doubt say she would be so proud of each of you.”

That resonated with me and quickly made me think about the impact her mom had on the entire student body.

Abigail and her mom in a picture from the Creek View Elementary School 2012 Santa Shop as Abigail chooses something from her mom. (File)

In that moment, I knew Deanna was not only a mom, she was a community mom. She not only loved her family, but she loved the kids in the community like they were her own.

This led to me diving into the impact she had, and quickly I realized we had worked with her on several occasions for stories during her time with the Thompson PTO and even as far back as when her kids were in elementary school at Creek View.

I started to visually see the person she was to this year’s graduating class and how her daughter earned the right to serve her class as class president.

There is also now the THS PTO Deanna Bess Scholarship that is awarded each year to graduating students, not only showing her past care for helping lead youth, but continuing to give back permanently as students transition into the next phase of life.

For many in the building, Abigail’s speech hit home. It made them think about the impressive adversity she fought through, it made them thankful for the loved ones they do still have in their lives and it made them appreciative for the loving nature of Deanna.

Life is challenging. There is no shortage of disappointment and heartbreak.

But, how we respond to the adversity we face is key.

In a heartbreaking part of her life, Abigail responded by being a leader in her school and the community as her class’s president and a member of the Alabaster Teen Council among other achievements.

Abigail takes a selfie with valedictorian Ashlyn Gamble between their speeches.

At the beginning of her speech, she said she hoped she had made her mom and dad proud. The answer to that is pretty clear, as she finished high school as a leader in the school like her mom taught her, while her dad got to see her address the 563 graduating seniors as their class president.

The key takeaway for all of you graduating this year is to be proud of who you are by working to make those who invest in you proud.

For all of us, there are so many people we want to make proud. There is that person like Deanna who is investing in us. Your family, your friends and your teachers serve as just a few examples.

As you go through life, keep that in mind.

You’ll want to give minimal effort at times, you’ll contemplate job changes, you’ll get stressed, you’ll face monetary decisions, you’ll have family challenges. The list goes on and on because life is full of challenges.

But as you face those struggles, remember, there is someone who believes in you, there is someone who has invested in your success and that is a someone you want to make proud. Just remember, there is always a solution, and if you give your best effort, you’ll tackle any challenge and make those around you proud in the meantime.