Be kind. Be proud. Be fearless.
That was the message delivered during the Hayes Freedom High School graduation ceremony in Camas Saturday afternoon.
Inside the gymnasium at Liberty Middle School, Phoebe Jud spoke to her 34 fellow Renegade graduates about those six words that students heard nearly every school day from teachers and staff.
“My first year at Hayes Freedom High School, I struggled to be a fearless Renegade,” she explained. “I was quiet and shy, and didn’t really talk to anybody.”
With encouragement from teachers like Monica Winkley and Lee Evans, however, that eventually changed.
“Through the support of the magnificent staff and my amazing friends, I have become the fearless Renegade I am proud to be today,” she said. “I hope all of you are proud of the person you are today, because I certainly am. I am honored to be graduating with such an amazing class. You really are fearless.”
She encouraged all of them to hold that strength close to their hearts — it could come in handy later on.
“When it is time for our generation to become the next leaders, teachers and doctors, and firefighters and artists, that fearlessness will be our secret weapon,” Jud said. “Go out into the world. When it is our turn to set it on fire, remember we are Renegades, and we are fearless.”
Amy Holmes, who has been principal at the school since it first opened seven years ago, explained that this is the time of year when she begins to question whether she has done enough to prepare students for the next chapter in their lives.
“I know you are more than capable of achieving the dreams you have today, as well as the dreams that will come along the way,” she said. “Your education will provide you opportunities that without it might not be possible. Your time at Hayes Freedom, whether it was four years or nine weeks, was important beyond what credits you earned or the tests you passed. You were among your people.
“You are amazing and appreciated for who you are as an individual,” Holmes continued. “You are not compared or judged against anyone, only your own potential. Some of you learned that quickly, others might just be realizing that right now.”
Teacher Mike Brasch, who grew up with six siblings, was the first of the brood to graduate from high school. He went on to work for his dad, earn money for college, and obtain a degree. He encouraged the graduates to appreciate the support of their families and loved ones, and consider heavily the choices they will make.
“Will you be ready when opportunity knocks for you?” he asked. “Be clean and sober to make good decisions. Own your mistakes, accept responsibility, don’t blame others and have a plan. You can’t see into the future, but you can make plans that help you to be in the right places, at the right time, with the right people.”
Teacher Stephanie Spencer explained that like the students at Hayes Freedom High School, the teachers have many different talents, strengths and personalities. She was selected by the graduates to be this year’s commencement speaker.
“You are extraordinary in your own ways,” she said. “Go be kind, be proud, be fearless out there. And be sure to report back.”