Shine a Light

By Hannah Ruby, E-town High School Senior

Hannah Ruby 
Photo: Cheri Sine. Hannah Ruby Photo: Cheri Sine. Hannah Ruby, Salutatorian for the class of 2018 at Elizabethtown High School, made this speech at the class graduation Tuesday, June 5 …

“If you forget your roots, you’ve lost sight of everything.” - Walter Payton.

My roots are the small town of Bainbridge, satellite of Elizabethtown and the brunt of many jokes. But Bainbridge isn’t a joke. It’s a community that’s influenced my life so heavily that I would like to share some of what it has taught me with you on our graduation day.

Yes, it is true that Bainbridge leans so far right it’s a wonder that buildings don’t collapse. We once made it on the national news for our “This is Not a Gun-Free Zone” signs that terrified criminals and liberals everywhere. Whether or not you agree politically, you cannot deny that Bainbridge has no qualms about standing up for its beliefs. Do not be afraid to do just that. Stand up and speak out, or else the world will turn into those five tortuous minutes of class when the teacher asks a question and refuses to move on until someone answers. Be that someone! Answer the question that keeps class moving, that keeps the world moving. There can be no progress unless we speak out. If you become involved in journalism, student government, or even just in class, your voice matters. Use it.

But while you’re standing up for yourself, don’t forget to support others in need. Bainbridge may have a loud mouth, but it has a big heart, too. A few weeks ago, one of my neighbors lost her husband of nearly 60 years. All of the food for the funeral was donated by other residents. We stand by each other in times of sadness and in times of joy. Our support isn’t just for condolences, but also for times of minor panic on senior prom night when the zipper rips out of the back of a dress and three of your neighbors spend two hours sewing you into the dress. Special thanks to Dawn, Russ and Amanda for coming in clutch with that upholstery thread! No matter how successful we become, we do not walk through this life alone, and through small acts of kindness like Key Club community service, or larger acts like missions trips, we can spread joy to more than just ourselves.

Granted, there are some people Bainbridge spends more time on than anyone else. Those people would be our children. In Bainbridge, there is a children’s summer camp that is nearly free of charge to parents, and it is headed by one very special woman: Gina Mariani. I attended this camp when I was little, and Gina has had a crucial role in shaping the young women you see here today. She has taught me many things, including the value of honesty and hard work as well as a life skill that is rapidly disappearing in today’s youth: mental math. Gina is practically an extra parent to all the children of Bainbridge, and we should take a page out of her book. Remember when you were a freshman, walking the halls of the high schools for the first time, terrified of being shoved in a locker? And do you remember the upperclassman who was kind to you and showed you where your classes were? Their kindness meant the world to you in that moment. Reinvest that kindness into every child you meet, because sometimes the littlest people can make all the difference.

As you head out into the world, I challenge each and every one of you to be like Bainbridge. Stand firm in your principles, keep your heart warm, and have a kind word on lips every time you talk to a child. I encourage you to look past stereotypes and see people for all that they are, because there are more Bainbridges out there. And most importantly, be grateful and remember where you came from. I would not be where I am today without the love and support I received from parents and the encouragement of my teachers. So, thank you Mom and Dad. Thank you to my teachers. Thank you Gina. And thank you to Bainbridge. Good Luck Class of 2018!

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