MONMOUTH — Underneath a banner that states “Ad Summam (To The Summit),” 51 students waited with barely leashed excitement for Sunday’s graduation ceremony at Monmouth Academy to begin.

The ceremony honored both the class and its accomplishments in athletics, drama and the Academic Decathlon — the academy’s team won the state competition and placed 7th in the small-school division at the national Academic Decathlon in Anchorage, Alaska at the end of April.

And the words of its honors essay speakers captured a snapshot of the lives and experiences of the Class of 2016 at the historic school for the crowd that filled the available seats and spilled over into the aisles in the academy’s gymnasium and auditorium.

Two of the five speakers shared these thoughts.

Taylor Spadafora likened their experiences to the stories that unfold in a book.

“How we live our lives are like the pages in a book,” she said. Friends are like supporting characters, and if they have been lucky, they have already met a few characters that will stay in their lives.


No book would be complete without antagonists. “Not everyone is going to like us,” she said. “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach, and you’ll meet someone who doesn’t like peaches.”

Inevitably, students face obstacles, like balancing school work, athletics and other activities. “We overcome obstacles only because we work hard.”

Although they have written different stories, she said, graduation marks the end of them.

Anna Kulinski recapped what it was like to be a freshman (“awful”) and what she and her classmates encountered as they progressed to being sophomores, juniors and seniors, starting to learn life lessons and understanding that they were moving beyond being children but were not yet quite adults.

“Parents, teachers and mentors told us that time flies when you get older,” she said, and it’s true because her time at high school flew by. Even so, it has been a crucial time in their lives, during which students were able to take on bigger challenges. “We have the power to choose our own destinies.”

She invoked the words of Nobel Peace Laureate Malala Yousafzai, who as a girl was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for education for girls. Yousafzai, now 18, is the same as many U.S. high school graduates.


“‘In some parts of the world, students are going to school every day. It’s their normal life. But in other parts of the world, we are starving for education. It’s like a precious gift, It’s like a diamond. Here, we take it for granted,” she said.

“We have the power to choose our own destiny… Education is the best gift one can give or receive,” she said. She and her classmates have been lucky enough to get a 12-year education and to be able to continue their studies if they choose.

Her wish for her classmates: “Create diamonds of your own and never stop learning.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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