MADISON — Don’t pursue happiness, pursue joy. Make it last.

This was the message Breanna Kanagy, valedictorian of Madison Area Memorial High School, told her peers as they prepared to receive their diplomas. The school’s graduation ceremony took place Friday night at the campus gymnasium. Fifty-five students made up the Class of 2019.

“Where happiness is based on circumstance, joy is found much deeper within,” she said, later adding that while happiness is often selfish, joy is deliberate.

“Joy is found in living for others,” she suggested. It’s not about “doing what you want when you want.”

With this in mind, Kanagy said, she hopes her classmates will feel encouraged to take the high road during the difficult moments they are yet to face in life. She congratulated the personal progress each has already made.

“To whatever accomplishments you made in these four years, whether it be in the school, community or in yourself, I encourage you to take a healthy amount of pride in those achievements,” she said. “Now, after reflecting on where you were to where you are, remember also to look at how far you have yet to go.”

Kanagy plans to do missionary work in Mexico through the evangelical nonprofit Youth With A Mission in the coming months.

Before hearing Kanagy’s words, graduates lining up to process into the gym reflected on some of the changes they experienced during high school.

“I’ve definitely come out of my shell and am way more confident,” said Bailey Brown, who will be attending St. Joseph’s College to study nursing in the fall.

Isis Albert expressed a similar sentiment. “I’ve definitely matured a lot,” she said. “But I’m a little nervous to get out in the world.”

Albert said that when she looks back on her high school experience down the line, she thinks this year’s homecoming will come to mind.

“(The senior class) was all actually working together,” she said. “Everyone joined in and no one was on the side sitting out. I had such a good time.”

Tanner Drouin summed up what several of his classmates also expressed: “Mostly, I’ll just miss being with my friends.”

State Sen. Bradlee Farrin, R-Somerset, also spoke at the ceremony Friday evening. Farrin represents District 3 in the Legislature. This includes Madison, the only town remaining in School Administrative District 59.

“Your future is full of opportunities just waiting for you to take charge,” he told the graduates. “You’re about to start a new chapter of your life. A chapter where you write your own story.”

He encouraged the graduating class to “always strive to listen to others, especially if you disagree with them.” And, he added, don’t be afraid to take risks and embrace failures along the way.

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