Editor’s note: Burnsville High School senior Alyse Dees spoke to her fellow graduates at the school’s commencement ceremony Friday, June 7. An edited version of her speech is below.

Good evening parents, family members, esteemed teachers and faculty, and class of 2019. Today is an exciting day. Today marks the end of your high school education journey.

Now I know many of us have been waiting for this day for what feels like eternity. We started at this school in 2016. That year, we watched many tragedies and world events that have affected us in ways words can’t describe. We watched one of the most controversial elections in history, Kobe Bryant play his last game, Philando Castile being murdered just 20 minutes north of us — rest in power, Mr. Castile — and the death of a great Minnesota legend, Prince.

We also watched many firsts and events that have changed the course of history. The Chicago Cubs won their first world series in over a century, Beyonce dropped her Grammy-winning album Lemonade, the ice bucket challenge funded an ALS medical breakthrough, evil Kermit became a global meme phenomenon and we all played Pokemon Go for about three weeks, and some of you still do.

Fast forward three years, and the world and our community are looking quite different. Since being in this district, we have seen many ups and downs. We have been through regional and state championships for sports and academic clubs. We made it through the renovations being made to the high school, the budget cuts, the teacher contracts, the great polar vortex of 2019, the annual April blizzard to hit right on the day we were supposed to take the ACT, numerous tests, quizzes, projects, and some of us even made it through without breaking our Chromebooks. I am not one of those few elite, but congrats to those who are.

Nonetheless, we have seen growth. This moment is a symbol of your own personal growth, but make no mistake about it, you all are not about the receive these diplomas because you earned it by yourself. You are here because of the people around you, because of the people in your corner and because of yourself. Your teachers helped you when you stayed late after school because question 3 still didn’t make sense. Your parents or adult figures in your life were there, rooting for you every step of the way.

You have developed this network of friends, family, teachers, co-workers, coaches, directors — the list goes on. This network has been here for you since the beginning, and it will be there for you tomorrow and far into the future.

Be sure to say thank you to the classmate who helped you with your American history assignment that one time, to the friends who served as your emotional rock during your worst moments, to that teacher who made sure that you understood mitosis before your bio test, to your parents for giving you the resources and support to be successful, the janitors for cleaning up after some of y’all who don’t know how to clean up after yourself, and even Mr. Meyer for forcing you to get your butt to class.

To quote author Melody Beattie, “Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow”.

Your growth from here on out will no longer be about grades and test scores. Your growth will be through your experiences and through the people you will meet. You will learn from people who will become your friends, your enemies, your mentors. From moments of great success and from moments of failure, remember to learn from those people and experiences just as you have done here at Burnsville High School.

Burnsville is a diverse community filled with people from all walks of life. Sure, we all went to the same high school, but we all never lived the same experience. The person next to you lived an entirely different past three years. Most of us don’t know the majority of the people sitting on this field, but we take pride in our differences. It is what fuels our community.

We are a place where success is not determined by our race, our zip code, gender, religion, sexual orientation or any other entity we use to define ourselves. We are a place of uplift.

None of us do the same thing everyday, nor did any of us do the same things in our three years at BHS. Some of you hung out with Mr. Croatt after school solely to talk about math. Some were actors and actresses, sports captains, state champions and K-pop dancers. Some of you all found your voice and became activists by speaking out against the injustices going on in our school.

The special thing we do share is that we have all made an impact on our community. Burnsville is a reflection of you and what you have brought to the table.

The yearbook is finally coming to a close; we are moving onto bigger and better things. Whether you are going on to another round of education that you can barely afford, getting a job or doing who-knows-what, never forget where you came from, because Burnsville High School will never forget you.

Your persistence has brought you this far; don’t stop now. The world awaits for you to bring forth your greatness just as you have done these past few years.

Congratulations to the class of 2019 and, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. It has been an honor to be a part of this legacy.

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