Cary Christian School’s class of 2019 graduated on May 16. This year our salutatorian was Matthew Stikeleather and our valedictorian was Zoe Vestal. One of the highlights of every CCS graduation is the privilege of hearing the wise and eloquent words delivered by our valedictorian and salutatorian, and this year was no exception.
At the commencement ceremony, upper school mathematics teacher Jeff Bates introduced Zoe:
I am now honored to introduce the final student speaker of the evening, our Valedictorian. 1 Peter 4:10 says “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another.” Zoe has received many gifts and used them to serve others well while here at CCS. However, I can tell you that Zoe did provide one difficulty for me this year. That difficulty was how to write a succinct recommendation letter for Zoe. You all know the work that is required to be a graduate of Cary Christian School. And Zoe performed extremely well here. But that wasn’t enough, so she completed additional coursework online at the NC School of Science and Math. Then you add in her athletic accomplishments. And her service with Civil Air Patrol. The list goes on and on. Without looking back to the actual recommendations, I can tell you how I solved my dilemma. I found these simple words: “Zoe is a blessing to every group of which she is a member.” Zoe, we thank you for blessing us here at Cary Christian. We look forward to the message you have to share with us tonight. Valedictorian of the Class of 2019, Zoe Vestal.
Senior year feels different than all the other years at Cary Christian. Whether it was the college applications, the looming decision about our future, or personal matters, we’ve all grown in different ways. Each of us has probably gained a new perspective on some aspect of our life. For me, one of the lessons I learned was that I’m really good at spilling stuff on myself. Sometimes I’d accidentally knock over my open water bottle, or I’d just miss the lid completely when trying to take a drink. It’s probably a good thing this gown is dark blue because something would have ended up on the white dress. I learned this year that I’m somewhat of a messy person, but more importantly, that life is also messy.
For most of our schooling, we’ve been looking at topics at one angle. When you run around trying to catch bugs to put on your insect board at home, science is easy. When all you have to do is blindly memorize the Gettysburg Address for a test, history is easy. But throughout high school, especially in senior year, I learned that these subjects are messy. Underneath the easy science, we learned about the quantum model which makes us have to realize we don’t have all the answers. In history, looking at both sides of difficult topics such as discrimination and war forced us to recognize that there’s always so much more to the story. In literature, we saw the effect that these decisions had on the society of the time. And when we had to do our thesis, there were always opposing views and ways that it impacted more people than we realized. For everyone, the deeper you considered your topic, the more complicated it seemed to become.
Now, we’ve been preparing to go out into the world through school for over a decade now, which may lead some of us to believe that we know what’s coming. I’m not going to try and charge you to always have a good attitude or to be strong in everything all the time or to push every day to reach your goal. I want to charge you to embrace the uncertainty coming ahead. To be honest, none of us know exactly what’s coming our way. Life has already been unfair and tough for a lot of people in this class. The path that we find ourselves in is not going to get any easier, any clearer, any simpler. But that’s not something to be scared of. I want to charge you to be embrace those messy parts of life. Those moments, those periods of your life will somehow fit perfectly into the complicated puzzle that God has made each of us. No one’s going to ever have it all together, so class of 2019, it’s okay to not be perfect. Instead of trying to fit into the mold of a successful individual or an ideal family, let God form you into the person He wants you to become. Remember the way that we faced questions that can’t be answered and accepted their uncertainty. Remember the way we looked at issues from multiple perspectives to try to gain a better understanding of the people behind the beliefs. We’re about to break from the cycle of high school, the comfort of the pattern that we can expect. We may not know what’s coming, but we can rely on a God who does.
Photo by Mark Lindsay