There have been many hardships faced over the past four years, Waldron valedictorian Madeline Douglas told her classmates Saturday during the school’s commencement ceremony.

“And if you think you haven’t, then I’m not sure where you’ve been the last year and a half,” she said.

This year’s biggest nuisance was attempting to match masks with outfits, she said.

As the graduating class of 47 move onto the next phase in their lives, they will continue to face challenges.

“Times will continue to change, along with the setbacks that we will continue to encounter,” she said. “How we respond to these misfortunes is what will ultimately set ourselves up for success or for failure.”

The graduates will face many choices in the future, and while the easier path may be tempting, the tougher option will reap more rewards.

The tougher choice will force them to step out of their comfort zone, she said.

“They will allow for room to grow, move forward and allow for who we are destined to be,” she told her classmates.

A few months ago, the graduating class did not know if they would be able to have a ceremony, she acknowledge. But they made it to Saturday, and for that, she was grateful.

She thanked God, teachers, coaches, staff, administrators, parents and caregivers for helping the class along the way.

“After we depart here today, many of us will go our separate ways,” she said. “But if faced with another pandemic, or any adversity for that matter, never forget the community that we grew up in.”

She encouraged her classmates to take risks and embrace the opportunities that present themselves.

“We are all capable of changing the world one step at a time,” she said.

Salutatorian Caroline Sheaffer looked back at their academic career, starting in kindergarten and continuing through high school.

By junior year, teachers and parents started reminding students how important it was to start thinking about their future, whether that be continuing their educating, entering the workforce or joining the military.

By their senior year, they were ready to be done, she said.

She was thankful that they were able to be back in the classroom but were “filled to the brim with senioritis.”

Senior year was full of applications and scholarships for those who decided to attend college she said. Their academic careers were 13 years that were a rollercoaster.

“But it’s a rollercoaster we call life,” she said. “Filled with personal lives of ups and downs, filled with nothingness, followed by periods of uncertainty and fear, but that’s what life is. It’s a rollercoaster. It’s a risk we all decide to take, closing our eyes and just jumping in.”

She encouraged her classmates to remember the memories they made together, both the positive ones and the negative.

“We must use our past experiences as we continue to ride the rollercoaster that we call life,” she said.