At least 75 people packed into the sanctuary of the Centralia United Methodist Church May 11 to witness eight students of the Centralia R-VI School District achieve one of life’s important milestones.
That is when Matthew William Andrews, Westley Scot Denny, Patrick Joseph Finnegan, Grant William Gevermuehle, Abigail Ann Golian, Julie Katrina Mathews, Celine Nicole Pastrana, Nolan Vincent Schnupp all received their high school diplomas courtesy of their hard work and the patient and talented staff of the Centralia R-VI Champion Academy.
Champion Academy is often described as an alternative school to help students whose lives don’t permit them to fit into the schedules of regular high school.
What began as, in the minds of some, an experiment, has become a R-VI tradition.
In his introductory remarks, Darin Ford, R-VI superintendent put it thusly: This commemorates the 22nd graduation since our first ceremony in May of 2005, also marking the 14th year of our school’s inception. As we acknowledge this milestone and the ceremony before us today, the realization is clear that the time and effort given in the creation and continuation of Champion Academy has truly been a worthwhile commitment. Today’s eight graduates make a total of 110 who have accomplished this endeavor and reached this goal.”
Ford also introduced the graduates’ choice for graduation speaker, Rachael Renaud, Centralia High School Art teacher.
Like many graduation speakers, she came with advice.
Not however, from a traditional source.
Speaking of her high school art teacher, Renaud told the audience of the teacher’s parting gift the day of her high school graduation:
“She gave me a folded piece of paper,” Renaud said. “It was a photocopy of a writing called “The Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann and on the bottom, she wrote ‘my favorite advice for a wonderful life.’”
Renaud said she reads it every year, and: “Each year it speaks to me in a new way.”
After reading it to the graduates, she said: “This sound advice that has guided me throughout pivotal years of my life, through my 20s and into my 30s, when I was making mistakes, when I was choosing my career path, and then choosing my career path again, in starting a family, in the loss of a loved one, and in figuring out who I am and who I want to be.”
She encouraged them to keep their copies and re-read them annually.
Then Renaud reintroduced some specific portions for the graduates’ consideration.
“Know that some years in your life you will make big mistakes, as I have. You will fail. But… ‘With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.’”
“Some years,” she said, “you will have great success and you’ll feel confident in your choices. ‘Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans… Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.’”
Some years, she said, they may feel completely lost, out of balance, searching for their path – “And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”
“This line in particular resonates with me,” Renaud said. “I’ve learned that our lives do not always unfold as we intend or expect, but in hindsight there is always something to be gained. Your failures, your accomplishments, and your losses will lead you in new directions. You cannot linger, obsess, or fixate on the past. Instead, we keep moving forward, allowing the universe to unfold in infinite directions, continuously learning, reflecting, and growing as it does.
I hope that these words will guide you to a wonderful life of your own.”