Hats off to you, Class of 2023

Carla Clark | For The Republic Brianna Newell, who will be attending the Naval Academy following graduation, stands as she is recognized along with other classmates who have chosen to serve their country, during the 2023 Columbus North High School commencement ceremony on May 27.

How inspiring it is to see young people graduating, to hear them express their limitless optimism for the future, and to feel the energy and zest for life they bring with them as they begin their next chapters.

To the hundreds of members of the Class of 2023 who graduated from our local schools, we salute you. Your accomplishment is a completion of a journey that now leads to boundless horizons.

And we have to say — you have taught us a thing or two.

Yours is a class like few others before. Most of your high school experience was derailed by a pandemic unseen in modern times. You were at home for a large portion of it. You lost out on activities. You missed your friends at school. You learned from a computer screen.

And yet, Class of 2023, you succeeded, and your optimism is infectious.

As The Republic’s Jana Wiersema and Mark Webber covered graduations at Columbus East, Columbus North, CSA New Tech and Hauser high schools, they reported words from speakers that are compelling and inspiring for anyone of any age to hear. Here is just a sampling:

“Success looks different for everyone. Moving beyond the expected, doing what’s best for you — whether it be academically, socially or emotionally — is the very best thing you can do for yourself. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. It doesn’t matter what they want you to be. It doesn’t matter who they want you to be. By defining your own success, you’ll be sure to create it.”

— East valedictorian Caitlyn Smith.

“Without the encouragement and unwavering support of my classmates, I wouldn’t be the person standing before you today … I would still be the shy, overlooked kid hiding in the corner, leaving high school without the amazing friendships and connections that I have. … I hope that wherever life takes you, whether that be college, the workforce or military, you will continue lifting each other up, because a little encouragement can go a long way.”

— North valedictorian Jessica Meza Sanchez.

“Our class is the definition of defying expectations. And we don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.”

— CSA New Tech graduating senior Abigail Shute.

“While you may experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, just realize that you have made it. You have worked so hard.”

— Hauser salutatorian Kylie Mack.

Graduates, whether you plan to further your studies, pursue a career, serve your country or follow a different path, we encourage you to never stop learning. Your education — what you learn, and what you know — is something that no one can ever take away from you. It also will take you where you want to go.

But hey, it’s summer. Take a breath and enjoy. You’ve earned it.

Here’s to the Class of 2023. You are indeed a class like no other, and we wish you all the best in the years to come.