Madeline Hurst, the student speaker at McNary High School’s 54th commencement ceremony, left the stage with a rallying cry against complacency. 

“Never, ever underestimate yourself. The rest of the world will do that for you. It is your job to prove them wrong,” Hurst said. 

A grand total of 415 students, surrounded by family and friends, took part in the annual graduation event held at the Pavillion on the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem on June 7.

Hurst spoke of the 2019 class’s 1,006 six days together at McNary and enlisted attendees in honoring students who went above and beyond on areas clubs, sports and academics. 

“Some of us, like me, have a difficult time finding x in an algebraic equation, but some of you went over and beyond finding x and now you are finding y and z,” Hurst said. 

Students enlisted a former teacher to deliver the commencement address. Derick Handley was a teacher, activities director and coach for the Celts for three years of the graduating class’s tenure before moving into an instructional coach position at McKay High School at the beginning of the academic year. 

Despite 12 years as a teacher, Handley said not one lived up to the designation “World Class” more than the 2019 McNary graduates.

“Never have I been around a collection of students who have made a bigger impact on my life, and the lives of everybody else they come in contact with,” Handley said. 

Handley encouraged the students to live their lives by leaning into four key principles: embracing adversity, honoring loved ones, celebrating other’s successes and carrying a growth mindset. 

“Each one of you had every excuse to give up on your goals at some point during your journey, but here you are. That resiliency paid off, and while difficult to accept, it’s adversity that shapes your growth as an individual,” Handley said. 

While the graduates had been working toward a common goal for 12 years – graduation, Handley said, the ideas of achievement will look different from here on out.  

“Continue to rejoice for those around you, even when their definition of a success differs from your own,” he said. “From now on you’ll have others depending on you under the immense pressures of everyday life. You will be relied upon for emotional support during the highs and lows, and you will be asked to lift others with you as you continue to climb ahead. Luckily, we can send you off confident that you will take these challenges head on, and you will be successful.”

The sole salutatorian for this year’s class was Adam Graneto. Co-valedicotrians were Noah Bach, Elisabeth Burleson, Hannah Corpe, Brandi Grunberg, Abigail Hawley, Rachel Herriges, Emma John, Josephine Lim, Tanveer Sandhu and Katy Wyatt.