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Val, sal: Be the best you can be

Escambia County’s valedictorian and salutatorian encouraged their classmates that hard work pays off and be the best version of themselves during graduation exercises on May 25.

Some 111 graduates received their high school diplomas at the exercise last week.

Valedictorian Keyaira Wilson said her view of the school changed from her first year to her last.

“The quote, ‘Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted,’ be (Albert) Einstein reigns true as I relish the memories I have here at ECHS,” Wilson said. “I have found that by striving to be the best version of myself and keeping God first, I accomplished more than I would have ever imagined.”

Salutatorian Zaria Smith said it’s OK to leave a path for others to follow.

“For the first time in a while, I’ve had the opportunity to think about what Ralph Waldo Emerson meant when he said, ‘Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.’ Class of 2018 let us leave a trail others will be proud to follow,” Smith said.

Smith said their senior year is representative of one that is a culmination of hard work.

“It is by no accident all of the remarkable things that have happened this year,” she said. “It is the result of our ambition to do our personal best; to persist, persevere and perfect ourselves.”

Wilson said being kind, determined, empathetic and loving to those around her has driven her to where she is today.

“It was not always fun or easy, but it was most definitely worth it,” she said. “I realize that often in life people are so caught up in being acknowledged for doing something that they don’t realize the true purpose of the task. To my class, I discourage this kind of behavior, and I urge you to be the best version of yourselves, always.”

Smith encouraged her fellow graduates to never give up on themselves.

“We must concentrate on enhancing our futures and setting great examples for those who love us and for those who will follow us,” Smith said. “We must be tomorrow’s positive images. Our actions must make a statement and send a clear message. A message that says, wherever we come from, whatever we do or don’t have, whatever our color, sex or religion, we can achieve greatness together.

“Class of 2018, it is up to all of you to make a difference, to have people say honorable things about you and leave the impression that you never gave up on yourselves,” she said.