Graduation speech by Jessa Johnson of Urbana High School

I've recently been featuring graduation speeches by local high school students on my blog. Today's speech is by Jessa Johnson of Urbana High School. She gave the speech at Urbana's graduation ceremony May 27, 2012.

If you spoke at your graduation ceremony this year, please email me at meg(at) with the text of your speech, a photo and information about your plans for next year, and I'll be happy to feature it.


Blog PhotoFirst I would like to start by saying thank you to all the parents, teachers, administration and faculty of Urbana High School. I would like to give a special thanks to Dr. Laura Taylor for all that she has done in her time here at UHS.

Because of your support and encouragement, we are all here today celebrating this  special day together. Also, I couldn't forget this awesome group of students sitting in front of me. It has been a great pleasure being able to represent this class as president for the past two years. I couldn't ask for a better group of students, classmates and friends!
 ​So I found out the hard way that starting a graduation speech is definitely not as easy as it may sound. As I sat around and brainstormed all of the possibilities for the beginning of this speech, I figured it would probably make the most sense to just start from the beginning of us as students.

 ​A little over 12 years ago, all of us were about 5 or 6 years old and were ready for our first day of school. Like most kindergarten students, I'm sure almost all of us had many of the same experiences on that first day.

We were excited with our new Power Ranger or maybe even Barbie lunch-box, dressed in our new favorite school outfit and I’m sure our parents were there with their cameras snapping pictures and wishing us well as they sent us off alone.

Little did they know, this was only the beginning of a new chapter in our lives and I must say, in some ways not much has changed in these past 12 years.
 As we went though elementary school and into middle school,  we began to see ourselves mature. We saw it as an exciting new experience and we began to realize how much things had changed just over one summer.

Middle school gave us all the chance to meet new people from different schools, make new friends and most importantly, become more independent. Then, those three years flew by and we were ready for a new adventure; high school.

Many of us remember our first day of high school like it was yesterday. I remember walking in the Race Street doors on the day of our freshmen orientation seeing the sidewalk covered in chalk.

Things like "Freshmen bedtime" and the words “Class of 2012“ with a big X through it we're written all over the concrete and I'm sure after that, I wasn't the only one that felt intimidated by the older kids' meaningless jokes.

After a few months of being in high school and getting to know the upperclassmen, we were finally starting to get the feel of what it was  really like to be a student at UHS. We experienced our first spirit week, attended school dances and were able to become more social by getting involved in any type of activity that interested us.

Throughout our years at UHS some of us decided to join sports team, clubs, band or drama, and come to find out, we have so many talented students in this class. Many have really helped our sports teams improve, our clubs expand and help promote all that Urbana has to offer. Along with sports team, we were also to be the first class that was able to enjoy and embrace our newly built athletic complex.

​Not only have our years here been socially fulfilling but academically as well. So thanks to us, UHS is getting the much deserved attention that it needs and all of our hard work and dedication has given us another small push in hopes of building up our future.

 Now as we look back, it might seem that every year in high school seemed to end pretty similarly. Finals, warm weather, yearbooks and most excitingly, countdowns until summer.... until this year. Once second semester rolled around, we had a new countdown to consider: how many days until graduation? That was the real question.

​And now, the countdown is finally over. Here we are today. At our high school graduation. OK, so we didn’t bring our cool new lunch-boxes or wear our brand new school clothes but instead, we are wearing caps and gowns while once again, our parents are here with their cameras, snapping pictures and wishing us well as we prepare for the next chapter in our life.
​So, in the long run I think it would be safe to say, leave behind what isn’t helpful, like your "cool" cartoon lunch-box you brought on your first day of school, and instead, bring forward with you the lessons that will be the working parts of your greatest invention ever. Your life. Your future. Congratulations to us, class of 2012!

Jessa Johnson plans to attend Eastern Illinois University next year to study early childhood education.

Photo submitted by Jessa Johnson.

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