MHS Class of 2023 Graduates!
After four long years, including the COVID year, Malad High School’s graduating class was ready for its final show during last week’s commencement. With salutatorian Jaden Davis and Valedictorian Camia Bean leading off the program, the event also featured remarks from School Superintendent Jon Abrams, keynote speaker Jason Dahlke, and a farewell speech from Vice Principal and coach Kory Kay.
“Hello everyone. Usually, graduation speeches focus on the average person, which is kind of a collective hallucination of someone who somehow does everything perfectly normal every single time. My speech isn’t about those kids. My speech is to the person who messes up; the person who never gets anything just right. My speech is to those who feel left out, left behind, unnoticed, or unseen. MY message to you is you are seen, you are known, and you are wanted. People like you are everywhere—sometimes they’re hiding, and they’re scared to come up to you, but they are there. And they see you, and they think about you. On the bus, in the car, during their passing periods, they think about you.
And just like you, they are dying for someone to reach out to them, and connect with them, and to admit that they’re human too. They’re dying for someone to think of them the way you want someone to think of you. Sometimes, the thoughts that other people are going to have about you aren’t going to be a lot. But, they are there. And just like to see that you are a comfort to everyone else who feels the same way you do. You are a comfort because you are strong. Your value does not come from what you can give to other people, it comes from who you are. From how you fought and pushed to make the smallest space where you can exist, and you defend your space daily from the loud noise that is everywhere except where you touch. The quietest and most private places. You have fought your own mind every single day.
But every day, you have a chance to take a breath. You will get to breathe. It may be late at night, with the people you trust more than anything in the entire world. Or it may be alone, on a rainy day somewhere in the mountains, made from deepest love. But you will get your chance to breathe, and remember of how much you’ve done just by being here. You don’t owe anything to society that asks and begs and whispers and demands that you give up parts of yourself.
You are your own person. Your life will be yours, and you will choose who to share it with. Do not sacrifice any more than you already have. Some day, there will be people who will help you, lovingly help you pick up the pieces that are falling out. They’ll polish them, and tell you that you are everything. You are good enough. You do not need to let go of yourself for anyone. I know it sometimes feels that when people are up on a podium they’re some sort of untouchable person. They seem aloof, and like they’re somehow more important than everyone else.
I’m here because I fought to make my own space, just like you. I’m here despite the calls that no one cares. Despite the side-eyes in the halls and streets. Despite moving more times than years I’ve been alive. Despite frankly awful things that have been said. Despite being another person. I’m here because I fight, I have fought, and I will fight for me, and for anyone else like me, who feels a little pressed in, who makes mistakes. I’m here for those who feel left out, left behind, unnoticed, and unseen. Because I know your names, I know you try, and I know what you give up. And I know what really good friends can be. And that counts so far and you can do so much. The future is yours to take, just like I took mine. Congratulations on your graduation. There are so many people who believe in you.”
“For a moment there, I was questioning if they gave the medallion to the wrong person. I didn’t realize until we were saying the Pledge of Allegiance, then it hit me that it’s here. Congratulations, guys, we finally made it. I know from experience that it’s hard to remember a speech, even if it is life changing. So I’m going to do my best to keep this speech as short as I can. However, if my classmates and teachers have learned anything about me these past four years, it’s that I tend to go over a time limit rather than under, so I’m going to try really, really hard just for you guys.
First, I’d like to give you a brief overview of our four years of high school. First, there was adjusting to the high school life—making new friends, adjusting to the high school schedule, figuring out which teachers are nice and which ones aren’t. I’m just kidding, most of you are nice. Freshman year was also the year of COVID, but I don’t think anyone has good memories of that, so I’m just going to skip it. Sophomore year—now that was a roller coaster. We never really knew if or for how long we would be in school. It was full of quarantining, and masks. But we were more experienced. We began to actually participate in spirit goals and school activities, find our place and think we knew what were doing. Spoiler alert, we really didn’t know at all.
Things started to look up in Junior year with the Spirit Bowl during Homecoming week. Class of 2022—we all knew who should have won Homecoming week. Junior year was full of testing, preparing, and realizing that Senior year was really not that far away. From taking the ACT to figuring out our senior projects, and what we wanted to do with our lives, junior was super busy.
So here we are--Senior year. It’s crazy how it came so fast. And a lot surprising things happened this year. Dahlke and Coach Kay became grandparents, the seniors dominated Homecoming week—I guess that’s not really a surprise, right? And we actually all made it to graduation. From this four years of high school I learned a lot of things. I learned what Tori’s favorite drink is when she’s stressed, random facts about Dahlke’s life that I don’t think I’ll ever repeat, what stories to ask Mrs. Jacaway about. I definitely recommend the one about her first date with her husband—I still remember it two years later. And even how to steal a trampoline.
However, one of the most important things I learned about high school, or even life in general, is the importance of taking charge of our lives, being involved, and making the most of the opportunities we have. It can be overwhelming, the number of things we feel like we need to do, but I promise you, you will experience more growth than you thought possible, and make the best memories. Live in the moment and make the most of your time and experience and you will not regret it. Don’t worry so much about the future that you forget to live in the present.
Now, Class of 2023, our lives are not over yet. High school is only the first chapter of life and the beginning of more amazing experiences. Remember the relationships and memories we’ve made here, but don’t be afraid of making new ones. More opportunities than we can ever imagine are waiting for us, and I know that we can go on to do amazing things.
In conclusion, I would like to say thank you. Thank you to the coaches and teammates that helped us learn about hard work, discipline and teamwork on and off the court. The teachers who put in extra hours to help us succeed. The students who helped make even the hardest days worth coming to. And the community for your endless support for every fundraiser, event, and game. Thank you to Malad High School and the Malad community for some of the best years of our lives. Congratulations class of 2023.
“It’s a privilege to be here with you tonight and I promise not to take much time because its’s warm,” Abrams began. He had provided a plaque for each student to take with them. “Maybe it’s one of the first things that you can put up in your dorm rooms or apartments.” The plaque contained words from renowned humanitarian Mother Theresa. “People are often unreasonable, irrational, self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and genuine enemies. Succeed anyway. If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway. What you spend years creating, others will destroy overnight. You create anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. You be happy anyway. The good you do today will often be forgotten. Do good anyway. Give your best, the best you have, and it will never be enough. Do your best anyway. In the final analysis, it’s between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”
“I promise you,” Abrams said, “If you will live by that motto, you will have a good and happy life. I hope you recognize those around you who have been a positive influence on your life, and that you spend the time to express your gratitude for all they have done for you. I hope you find a career that brings you joy. And that you will be able to enjoy going to work, and that you become the best at whatever you choose to do. I hope you learn to manage your money wisely, and that you make enough to do what you want to do without becoming a servant to debt. That when you want something you work hard for it. That you learn to accept responsibility for your actions—your success and your failures. They are yours. You get to own them, and you get to decide how to respond to them. I hope you learn the value of service, and that if you really want to be happy you’ll find ways to bless those around you. I hope you’ll become a peacemaker. That you will learn to respect individuals with very different views than yours. And you’ll learn to recognize that we all can live together in peace. I hope you learn to become appreciative of the country you live in, and the men and women who protect those freedoms for you 365 days a year. I hope you will have an amazing relationship with a partner, who will become your best friend and go through those trials and joys with you. I know that the partnership, and a partnership with God, will get you through all things with joy.”
“Most importantly, I hope you will surround yourself with people who make you better. People who believe in you, are willing to share dreams with you and work together to make your life and those around you better, and this world a better place. Congratulations graduates, and thank you for making my experience with you this past year so memorable.”
Raegen Smith and Loralee Teeples then performed a musical number, “Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson.
Senior Class Vice President Amelia Balappa introduced the commencement speaker, Government teach Mr. Jason Dahlke. According to Amelia, “in his own words, Mr. Dahlke was born on the mean streets of Downey to two semi-loving parents. As the smartest of four children, he was bound for greatness. As such, he attended the Princeton of the West, Idaho State. After giving them all his money, he decided to pursue teaching for all the money. But what he loves even more than that are all the critical comments about his wardrobe. His hobbies include making TikToks, updating his Instagram, and travelling with his wife Stephanie.”
“The cool part about kids,” Dahlke began, “is that when you’re cool like you are now—giving great speeches and beautiful musical numbers, than your our kids. When you’re not the greatest, they you’re kids. I’ve spoken a few times, and I don’t believe it’s because I’m a great speaker. I truly believe it’s because of lack of options.” Dahlke went on to give a range of bad advice to the graduates, such as “life after high school is a piece of cake. You’ll have no trouble finding a job with a six-figure salary. And if you can’t, just live with your parents, it’s totally cool. It is their job to support you financially. Don’t worry about making friends, you’ll have plenty of time for that. And when you do, make sure they’re just like you. We all know that getting the job is because of the resume skills you learned in high school. Don’t bother with college, just go into the workforce and work your way right up to CEO. It’s just that easy.”
“After a good laugh, Dahlke confessed, “okay, that was really bad advice. I hope none of you would ever take that. I’m going to give you my actual decent advice. Your adult life is just starting, and it’s probably going to be hard. You’re going to be making a lot of decisions in the next few years. Don’t be intimidated by that. First and foremost, remember that life after high school is not a race. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that you need to get everything figured out right away. That’s not true. Take your time, explore your interests, try new things, and find your passion. Don’t be afraid to take a gap year before you go to work, or college. So take the time to figure out what works for you. Make sure it’s not twenty years in someone else’s basement.”
“Second, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it, whether it’s family, friends or others. It’s a sign of strength. Life after high school can be challenging, and it’s important to have a support system in place. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your parents, teachers and counselors for guidance. It’s so much better to reach out and let people help you than letting time go by without moving forward.”
“Third, remember that failure is not the end of the world. In fact, it’s often the best teacher outside of [me]. Don’t be afraid to take risks and try new things, even if you’re not sure that you’ll succeed. Failure is a natural part of the learning process, and it’s how we grow and improve. Thomas Edison said, ‘I have not failed ten thousand times, I have successfully found ten thousand ways that will not work.’”
“Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, be kind to yourself and others. It’s important to take care of yourself both physically and mentally. Do your best in all you can do. You aren’t perfect, and you aren’t a machine, so give yourself a break now and then. Remember to be kind to others. Small acts of kindness can go a long way to making someone else’s day.
“Finally, remember that success is measured by your grades or job titles. Success is about finding happiness in your own life. Don’t get caught up in the idea that success is about making a certain amount of money or having a certain job title. Success is about finding what makes you happy and pursuing it with a passion.”
“In closing, I want to congratulate you again on your achievements. Life after high school can both be exciting and challenging, but I have no doubt that each and every one of you can achieve great things. Remember to take your time, ask for help, embrace failure, be kind, and pursue your passions. And most important, don’t forget to enjoy the journey. Life is a beautiful, unpredictable adventure, and I can’t wait to see where it takes you.”
“They told me I could yield the mic for a few moments, and I wanted to give them to somebody we all love. Or at least all like to make fun of some times. He’s leaving us to go over the hill to West Side,” Dahlke said. “We’re going to miss him around here, and I want to give him a couple of minutes.”
“I was threatened earlier today that this might happen,” Kay said. “So I had Chat GPT write a breakup letter.” Kay then read a farewell letter to the school, with many suspiciously specific details for an AI to have generated. “Dear Malad HS, I hope letter finds you in good health and high spirits. It is with a heavy heart that I sit down to write this, as the time has come for us to part ways. As I prepare to leave the halls that have been my home for the last years—I literally slept on the couch behind the weight room multiple times—I reflect on our journey together.
“When we first met five years ago, I was just a young teacher/coach. I had one year of teaching experience and three years’ experience as a JV Defensive coordinator. Boy, you guys were desperate. I was nervous, filled with a mix of excitement and trepidation (boy, you can tell which words I did not put in here because they’re bigger than six letters). However, you embraced me and provided me with opportunities for growth and development. You gave me six different classes to prep for. You gave me a football team that hadn’t won a game in three years. Together we’ve had our ups and downs, but with your support I became a better teacher—even better than Dahlke. And we won a couple of couple of football games. And we’ve had three kids since I’ve been here. I will however be grateful for those experiences. But, as with any relationship, change is inevitable. The time has come for me to spread my wings and venture into the unknown. As I stand on the precipice of a new chapter in my life and must bid farewell, it is time for me to embrace new horizons. As I bid you farewell, it Is time to express my deepest gratitude.”
“To the community, teachers, staff, and administrators, for the love and support they have shown me and my family these last five year, you have made a lasting impact on my life. There will always be a little orange in my blood.”
Following the speaker’s remarks, Principal Corbett closed the speakers portion by explaining the tradition of the orange rose given out to graduates to be given to someone they feel has been essential to their success throughout their education. Principal Corbett noted how all 83 members of the 2023 class had qualified for graduation, “some by the skin of their teeth.” “They have endured well, and they have endured much. I’m even letting them wear hats in the building. They are great, great people. I recommend them to you without reservation. Without hesitation.”
Brent Evanson, representing the School Board, officially accepted the students for graduation. Diplomas were then handed out, along with a brief explanation of where each student planned to attend school next or what their future plans were.