Unseasonably hot weather didn’t stop the 100-member Class of 2018 from showing their delight Sunday after they were declared graduates of Oregon High School.
Despite the 90-plus temperatures outside, hats went high in the air as, diplomas in hand, the class turned to face their families and friends, amid cheers all around.
Commencement speakers told the class that showing kindness and a willingness to serve others hold the keys to true success.
“Kindness is more valuable than intelligence. Contentment is more powerful than always getting my way,” said Brion Brooks, executive director of Village of Progress, an agency that provides social and work opportunities for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Those are some of the lessons Brooks said he is learning from the people VOP serves daily.
He recounted lessons he has learned throughout his life while making career decisions and dealing with difficulties.
One of those lessons came when his daughter Rachel, now in her 30s, was born with development difficulties.
In church one Sunday, Brooks said he wrote a letter to God detailing his disappointment.
“I told God I dreamed that I’d dreamed of a little girl who would be talented and smart,” he said. “Instead, I told God, you gave me a child who is hard to understand. A child who will likely never live on her own. I told God how I had wanted a child who might lead others closer to him.”
As he wrote the letter, it occurred to him that God had given him a child who led him closer to God, said Brooks, who later became a pastor.
“But here’s the thing — God didn’t do it through what I consider strengths. God led me closer to him through a child who many, including myself at the time, would consider weak,” he said.
Brooks said sometimes the greatest roadblock to success is “your own ego.”
“What I hope you will find, and what I suspect your teachers and coaches have been trying to show you over the past 12 years, is this: your fullness in life won’t be measured by what you can gain, but in how much of yourself you are willing to surrender,” he said.
Sarah Wolber, one of two seniors to give the class reflections, also advised her classmates to make kindness a priority.
“Do all the other things, the ambitious things – travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes…but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness,” she said, quoting from author George Saunders.
Senior speaker Meredith Gelander urged her classmates to be bold.
“Take this next chapter in your life to step outside your comfort zone and try new things,” she said.
She also advised them to choose contentment and thankfulness.
OHS Principal Andrew Nelson said Gelander and Wolber were chosen to provide the class reflections because both earned a grade point average of at least 4.0 and accumulated more than 400 community service hours.
“Both of these students have impressed all of us here at OHS with their talent, work ethic, and determination,” he said.
Nelson also listed the accomplishments of the class.
They have performed more than 9,890 hours of community service projects, and have earned more than $200,000 in scholarships.
Eleven of them have achieved a GPA of 4.0 or higher, and 45 of them achieved a 3.0 or higher.
In addition, 72 percent of the class successfully completed one or more college level courses.
“Lastly, the Class of 2018 is donating over $1,000 to purchase a new drinking fountain for the OHS second floor,” Nelson said. “Congratulations on a job well done.”