Farmington HIgh School graduates celebrate the end of their high school career with the  traditional cap toss following a ceremony at the USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth June 11.

Farmington HIgh School graduates celebrate the end of their high school career with the traditional cap toss following a ceremony at the USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth June 11.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Farmington graduates ‘just keep swimming’

By: Charity Meier | Farmington Press | Published June 16, 2023

  Members of the 2023 North Farmington High School graduating class file into the USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth for their commencement ceremony June 11.

Members of the 2023 North Farmington High School graduating class file into the USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth for their commencement ceremony June 11.

Photo by Brian Wells

FARMINGTON/FARMINGTON HILLS — On June 11, 633 students filed into the USA Hockey arena to receive their diplomas during graduation ceremonies for Farmington and North Farmington high schools.

Graduates of the Farmington Community School District Class of 2023 proved to the world that they can and will “just keep swimming” as they work to discover who they want to be when they grow up.

“Our high school career was a roller coaster ride, and senior year was the high,” said North Farmington High School Class of 2023 senior class president Aashnaa Singh in her keynote address.

Singh pointed out the struggles the students had conquered during the pandemic as their world got flipped upside down, right when they had figured out how to navigate the halls of NFHS. Instead of having a typical sophomore year, their class was learning how to master Google Meets and online learning.

“All we could count on and all we ever could really count on for certain are our own decisions and actions, our attitude and faith towards ourselves and others, and our ability to create and maintain hope for a positive resolution,” said NFHS principal Joseph Greene. “The events of your high school years have made it starkly clear that our personal stories are inextricably intertwined with each other’s and weave together into the collective story of our nation and our humanity.”

Singh said she hopes high school taught her classmates to never give up hope and to never give up on themselves, to learn from mistakes, but not dwell in the past, to live in the present while focusing on the future, and to never lose sight of their goals.

“All the tears, tests, trials and tribulations have led us to this moment, where we walk across the stage into a new chapter of our lives,” said Singh. “Although it can be daunting, I have full confidence that the things we have learned and the experiences that we’ve had have shaped us into powerful young adults that can take anything life throws at us.

“When life gets you down, as a little blue fish with short-term memory loss once said, ‘Just keep swimming,’” Singh instructed her classmates. “Class of 2023, at many points throughout high school life got us down. We endured our own unique set of hardships and challenges, but we just kept swimming, and through it all we managed to graduate.”

Greene said that, in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the students were able to realize and cherish interpersonal interactions, as well as how important it is to have empathy and understanding of others.

“You must answer who will you be as a person on your journey when you leave after this graduation. What values will drive you?” Greene said. “What kind of hero will you be in your story?”

Lillian Penner, Farmington High senior class president and keynote speaker, also questioned who they will be “when we grow up.” She spoke of the question young children are asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” She recalled in kindergarten the answer was things such as astronaut, athlete or movie star. As a young adult, she said she has pondered that question and believes it should be reworded. The question she said should not be what do you want to be but who.

“I challenge everyone to reconsider the question, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ Instead ask yourself,  ‘Who do you want to be when you grow up?’ Switching this one word reframes the question to let us think about what is really important,” said Penner. “Not what job or accomplishments you’ll have, but your character and identity. … Remember to not get so caught up in material things like money, job titles or material things that you lose who you are. Be guided by your beliefs and, most importantly, be who you are.”

The classes were given the same advice from Superintendent Christopher Delgado and Board of Education President Cheryl Blau. Delgado told the FHS  and NFHS  students of a philosophy instructor using a mayonnaise jar filled with rocks, pebbles and sand to symbolize a full life. The jar represents a person’s life, the rocks represent essentials such as health, spending time with family and connecting to the world. The pebbles represent things that matter, but a person could live without: a job, a house, hobbies and friendships. The sand represents the “filler” in one’s life, such as material possessions, watching tv, and perusing social media.

“Students, you heard that right. Social media is not the most important thing in your life. It’s just the sand. I think some of the adults need to remember that as well,” Delgado said. “Sand things don’t mean much in your life as a whole and are likely only done to pass time or get small tasks accomplished. The metaphor here is that if you start with putting sand into your jar you will not have room for rocks or pebbles.”

Blau spoke of the difference between “because” and “even though.” She explained that they should not go fourth saying they can’t do something “because” or that this happened “because,” but rather they should continue to achieve their goals, “even though” they may have a challenge.

“We wish for (the graduates) an ‘even though’ attitude of resilience and perseverance as your adventure continues,” said Blau.

Christine Meussner, the principal of FHS, stressed that success is not about achievements but kindness, ethics, compassion and a positive impact on the world around you. She said she has seen the students take on all those challenges and is sure they will continue to do so in the future.

Each of the classes left behind a gift for the high school to remember them by.

During the ceremony NFHS student Jordan Brown presented the class gift of a ginger gold apple tree.  It will bear fruit in August as a new generation of Raiders enter NFHS. The apples are green in the beginning to represent new beginnings, abundance and growth. As they ripen, they turn yellow, symbolizing optimism, joy, intellect and friendship, all of which Brown said were feelings the students experienced throughout their high school journey. She said the tree itself symbolizes prosperity, which they hope  they  as a class will grow with it.

“This year symbolized the meaningful and necessary part of our growth leading us to a new part of our lives,” said Brown. “It is crucial that we give back and remember our roots where our very humble beginnings started. This is the gift that continues giving.”

The Farmington High School Class of 2023 gave its class gift of school benches prior to commencement day.

During the ceremony both high schools had music and vocal selections performed by the student band, orchestra and choir groups. FHS seniors performed the Pentatonix song “Standing By” and a rendition of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” The NFHS choir performed Jacob Naverud’s  “Found Tonight.”

Both ceremonies ended with the traditional moving of the tassel from the right to the left as a symbol of completion, which was followed by a spontaneous cap toss before the students marched out of the arena.