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Cook High Graduation Speeches

Dalton Sumner

GREETINGS – Dalton Sumner, Senior Class President

Welcome everyone to the 2023 graduation ceremony. I would like to first thank God for allowing us to be here today. It has been such an honor to serve as this class’s president. I am not going to lie; we as a class have not always gotten along throughout the years, but as we all grew to be more mature, I feel as if we gained a great amount of respect for one another. These past four years have been some of the best and worst times of our lives. When we first got out for a week freshman year, everyone was so excited till that one week break ended up taking over our freshman year and then due to COVID, we only got one normal high school year.

I always remember being told, “Enjoy your time in school. It will be over before you know it.” I now realize that this was beyond true. We will no longer have school trips together or football games in the student section together. It is now too late to sit back and enjoy the moment. I have good faith that everyone in this class will do great things even if you do not know exactly what you want to do after tonight. 

With that being said, I’d like to leave the class with my favorite Bible verse, Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” 23 out.

Jasmine Kaur

3rd Honor GraduateJasmine Kaur

Welcome everyone to this celebration of our graduates! It is such an honor to be speaking today! So much of our support stems from our parents, guests, teachers, and administrators, so I want to thank you all for guiding us graduates throughout the years. These mentoring figures pushed us through the beautiful and the ugly aspects of high school with a determination fueled by faith, and I know I can speak for my fellow graduates when I say we sincerely appreciate all that you have done in our academic, extracurricular, and personal lives. I guarantee we would not be here in this stadium without your encouragement.

Seniors, we completed quite the journey. From kindergarten to our senior year, we have spent over a decade with each other, working our way up to this moment. In the process, we left our marks on each broken athletic record (ahem Kylie Downs), club competition, and fine arts performance we were a part of. We completed the challenge of finishing our schoolwork on time (mostly), managing our involvement in the community, and balancing the demands of our extracurriculars. We pushed ourselves increasingly each year, and we became better for it. We have proven ourselves to be the fierce Hornets we say we are, stinging every obstacle that dares to stand in our way.

As much as many of us say we are more than ready to graduate, to come into the world with a burning passion to succeed, I must say it crept up on me. As we reached the last few weeks of school, I found it jarring how close graduation day was. I swore I was still in primary school wearing a light-up Christmas shirt for the annual winter play in the gym. I vividly recall our Renaissance Rocks celebrations in elementary school with the overcrowded bouncy houses and Mrs. Carnine hardcore dancing to the same songs that played each time the event was held. In middle school, we got soaked on MATH Day on the singular water slide that was kept on the entire day. I can still smell the mixture of sunscreen and chemicals from the wet clothes. I dare mention the FEVER dream that was the middle school talent shows… which were memorable in their own right, especially with Carter Exum and Amaya Brown killing each show with their insane vocals. It seemed just yesterday, I was a saxophone player at the OLD football stadium, cheering for our Hornets in the cramped bleachers while chanting CC on the Mic with the cheerleaders. Just last week I participated in heated debates in Mr. May and Mrs. Phillips’ classrooms and sang the iconic quadratic formula song Mrs. Futch taught us. Of course, I cannot forget about the dreaded pandemic that took half of our first and all of our second-year experiences away from us. Yet, being the resilient Hornets we are, we bounced back from the odd learning situations we had to endure. We made up for our lost time, taking advantage of every academic and extracurricular opportunity once we got back on our feet. We owned our school experiences, the nice ones and the not-so-nice ones. Now, I have the honor of standing in this giant stadium, speaking to you, my fellow graduates, with words of encouragement before we all venture off on our respective paths.

This is the final shining moment before we are officially let out into the world of adulthood. This ceremony marks the end of our adolescence and the beginning of our individual legacies. I hope you all take advantage of the power given to you. The freedom, the knowledge, and the skills you have gained allow you to pursue anything you desire. Some of you will be holding onto home, working within the community, or attending college nearby. Others will venture far away to achieve their dreams on a larger scale. Whatever path you take, I have confidence in your abilities to achieve and inspire, to break records, and hold trophies to the skies just as you did in high school. In the words of Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jin, “Your focus determines your reality.” Graduates, your future is in your hands. I urge you to take control of it. Seize it and never let go. It has been an honor working with you all these years, and I expect to hear remarkable things from your future endeavors. Each and every one of you is capable of changing the world. Do not try to deny it.

We are Hornets, and Hornets are not afraid to sting!

Halle Griffin

Salutatorian, Halle Griffin 

Just a forewarning: I’ve used the word change in this speech 17 times, and adding this sentence made it 18. But that’s only because the concept used to be so absolutely daunting to me. The dictionary defines the verb change as “making someone or something different; alter or modify.” Or an alternate definition says “to replace something with something else, especially something of the same kind that is newer or better.”

So the dictionary says change is good, that the loss of something means better things are coming, that different is superior. But it feels like life has told me over and over that change is scary, that it makes things harder, that “different” is not always what I want. Change does not make me feel like I would get something better when I felt like I was losing, and it most certainly does not make me want to embrace it.

Of course we all know I don’t mean small changes. I am talking about growing up, about how fast the past 14 years have gone. Big change means losing and gaining life-long friends, deciding where to go to college and how it affects the rest of your life, experiencing a pandemic and not having one “normal” year of high school. Change has been finding ourselves and choosing our identity. And though it feels like we’re moving 90 mph, and change is obviously inevitable, I’ve realized it doesn’t have to be scary. Because we always have people who make it less scary.

So thank you to my parents for being my biggest supporters and the best role models, you taught me how to love and how to be my own person. Thank you to my grandparents for never letting me forget how proud you are of me. Thank you to my teachers and coaches for being the greatest mentors and always believing in me. Thank you to each friend who has loved me and been with me to make so many memories. Thank you to my sister for being my biggest fan and the brightest light, you are my best friend. Thank you to all of my classmates, being able to know you has made me a better person. And thank you all for being in my life to make change a little less scary. I am proud to know each of you, and I pray that by knowing me, I have been able to make an impact on your life the same way you have mine.

I encourage you today to allow yourself to be changed by your experiences, and to make a lasting impact on those you encounter. But I encourage you to adhere to your true self always. Romans 12:2 says “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Take each step towards gaining wisdom and broadening your understanding of the world. Be kind, courageous, humble, patient, resilient, and yourself.

Cook High Class of 2023, I cannot wait to see you change the face of medicine, change someone else’s perspective of the world, change your own character, and continue to be inspired by those who are making changes daily. I encourage you to be the one who makes a difference, who replaces something with something better. And I pray that you are always proud of where you came from, because as Hannah Montana says: “You can change your hair, and you can change your clothes. You can change your mind, that’s just the way it goes. You can say goodbye and you can say hello, but you’ll always find your way back home.”

Allie Simmons

Valedictorian, Allie Simmons

Good evening. On behalf of the Class of 2023, I would again like to welcome you here tonight. To all of our loved ones, thank you so much for your endless support over the last thirteen years. We will forever be grateful for all of the lessons and values you have instilled in us.

Administrators, teachers, coaches, and staff members; a simple thank you does not seem enough to let you know how much you all have impacted our lives and have made our school years exceptional. You all have been instrumental in molding us into the young adults that we are today. I am truly blessed to be able to call Cook County my home. We have been blessed with, and blessed by, a community that pours its resources, energy, and love into all of its students. My hope for our class is that we never forget where we came from and as we go our separate ways, continue to make Cook County proud.

Class of 2023, today is our day. It is our day to celebrate our accomplishments with our class, our family, and our friends. It is the day that we have been working towards and looking forward to since Pre-K. We have spent the last four years walking the halls of Cook High School but this August will be different for us. We will leave tonight and go our separate ways but the memories we have made will last a lifetime. Even though we have reached this major milestone in our lives, we are not finished. Class of 2023, we have dreams to make a reality and we have a world in front of us to make a better place. In the book of John, chapter 8 verse 12, Jesus spoke to them saying, “I am the light of the world;  he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” Our strength is in Jesus’s light. As Christians, let us come together and create a glow for our Lord. We shine brightest when we all shine together. Class of 2023, I challenge you to let your light shine.

Finally, to my class, wherever your path takes you, I challenge you to persevere. Throughout my life, I have learned that it is not what happens to you throughout your life, but it is your reaction to your circumstances and your determination that will ultimately determine your success. As we leave today and go off into the next transition of our lives, I want to impress these words from Winston Churchill onto your heart. “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” In all circumstances, have the courage; the courage to take risks, the courage to fail, and the courage to keep going.

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