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St. Joseph's Catholic High School
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Valedictorian 2017/2018

Valedictorian for 2017 / 2018 - Morgan Palmer

Palmer, Morgan.jpg

Good evening, everyone! Before we begin, I would just like to give a shout out to Mrs. Campigotto, the woman who brought us frozen yogurt after about 100 years of waiting!  

Well, parents, family, friends, teachers, and members of the clergy, it's graduation day! This is a very exciting time for all of us!

Standing up here I can't help but get kind of sentimental.  Four years ago we were children, intimidated by the new world we were thrust into. We had to adapt and overcome the difficulties of exams, making friends, peer pressure, and learning how to manage our time wisely… a lot of which we still do not know how to do.

There's something unique about the connections that students have being a part of the same graduating class, experiencing things together that we don't go through with our families or other fr  iends. The relationships we build are truly special. I'm not sure why that is… is it our common suffering in what the school calls "math"? Collecting as many cookies after mass as physically possible? Or is it celebrating Christmas dinner with a cement goose called Glen? Through all of the fun and exciting times we have experienced, our love and respect for each other has grown with every passing day, bringing us closer and closer together. And, BAM, just like that, now it's time for us to split up, go our separate ways, start lives in the real world! Why did no one warn us that it would go by this fast? The fun of high school is over, but now we will be going into new and exciting adventures of our own where we will create more very bizarre memories just like we made here at St. Joseph's. In fact, life at St. Joseph's has been sooo good that a FEW of us are coming back for ANOTHER year.

I would like to discuss my own journey here at St. Joe's.  I came from Port Stanley Public School alone, knowing few students and little about the Catholic faith. The majority of other freshman had been classmates already in elementary school and I struggled to find my place among them.  After many failed efforts to make meaningful friendships, I suffered mentally and emotionally all throughout the first year. I didn't feel like I belonged.  I then recalled a quote that said "If you allow yourself to be overcome by sorrow, you will drown in it."   I realized that it was up to me to make the most of my experience here and I was only going to get out what I put in.   Man, did it pay off.

Back then I would not have thought that I would have fallen in love with St. Joe's, nor would I have guessed that the best part of my day would be walking through the doors every morning catching up with the boys on the bench, hearing Steven playing Billy Talent on his guitar, and listening to Ms. Wojcik, in a breathless manner, remind us that it is "Last call for pictures!"

My four-year journey at St. Joe's has taught me that everyone deserves a seat at the table.  We all have a need to belong.  When I was in grade nine, I thought I was alone, but what I didn't realize was that there are many more who do not feel like they fit in, whether that be at school, work, or even at home.

This year at the beginning of semester two, I was assigned by Mr. Ursic, my leadership teacher, to join the BELIEVE program, a program designed to help students with special needs make friends and feel like they belong in the school. At first, I wasn't very interested. I thought little was to come out of this experience…MAN was I ever WRONG.

The following week I was paired with a boy and I was to help him in his geography class. Over the next ten weeks with him, we did everything BUT geography. He and I clicked together like Ernie and Burt. We would talk about space travel, robot uprisings… everything! You name it! At first, we would only talk weekly, but after I got to know him more, it became an almost everyday occurrence, talking in the hallway, seeing each other at lunch. On the fifth week of the BELIEVE program, he told me that I was his best friend, and it was on the fifth week that my life was changed forever. He was a regular kid to me, a person that I was able to connect with on a personal level, and finally for once, I had a friend that wouldn't encourage me to do dumb things for his own entertainment. I will cherish our friendship forever. When I began the BELIEVE program, I never would have imagined that I would be the one who would take the most away from this experience. His friendship brought me to know true acceptance and open-heartedness and how they will always lead you to the brightest end of the darkest tunnel.  After seeing the challenges, he faces each and every day, I now know the true importance of how everyone deserves to be in a place where they feel valued and can share their ideas freely without fear of judgement. I want others to see that we, as the graduating class of 2018, can be the change, expanding our Ramily to be all-inclusive and a safe place to grow for others. That's what life is all about.   Les Brown once said, "Help others achieve their dreams and you will achieve yours." We all have something unique to contribute and that is what makes our school community unlike any other. We are a school that perfectly embodies the hard work ethic of St. Joseph and the love and acceptance of Jesus. We are a team with our own skillsets and we can take these skills into the real world while being able to acknowledge that everyone has something to contribute.

As Aristotle said, "The whole is more than the sum of its parts."  Our potential as a class to create an impact in society is promising.  We have the potential as leaders of tomorrow to create a world where people feel loved and have a sense of belonging.  There is no better time to start than now. Remember to take the time out of each and every day to put a smile on the face of someone who needs it. 

In grade nine we were thrown into the terrifying experience which we call Lamb Day. The ceremony where we are baptized head to toe in shaving cream and toothpaste symbolizes our transition from a lamb into a Ram. This event is a crucial step to becoming a Ram. It was fun at the time, but I never really asked myself, "What does it truly mean to be a Ram?" Well, after meeting you all, I've experienced what it really means.  We are not all the same, but there are three things we all have in common: loyalty to our school community (the best in the world), love for everyone, and a burning passion for what we believe in. That's what its all about when you're a Ram.  I can say without hesitation that we have all earned our true horns. From now on, we will be remembered among the greats of St. Joseph's. Our history will remain in the hallways of this school and that's something that will never change, no matter the distance or the time that separates us from those hallways in the future.

Our school's outstanding teachers and staff are unrivaled. I could break down our favourite aspects of all of you, but I think if I were to do so, I would, in fact, be the one to break down. I would, on the other hand, like to thank the teachers who will be leaving us this summer. Mr. Sandie, I'm surprised you aren't telling me to put on my safety glasses for just standing up here on the stage… You've been an amazing shop teacher for years and the students who have had the pleasure of learning from you are lucky. Thank you very much for your time here. Mr. Santagapita, thank you for your work in Learning Services and the hours you put into football.  I wish you the best at…STA, our biggest sports rival, yikes. Mr. Hardy, what can I say? For those of you that don't know, I have a very interesting relationship with Mr. Hardy. Being best friends with his son, Sam, allowed for us to have some stimulating kitchen table talks about school, poker, and girls. Side note: never take relationship advice from Mr. Hardy. He is also the only teacher not to once question me when I told him that my dog ate my homework.  He either believed me or just gave up! Thank you so much, guys! We're really going to miss the three of you. On a more serious note, I want to talk about our post secondary…. Wait, you didn't think I was forgetting about Mommer!? Mr. Mommersteeg, I am genuinely worried about Mr. Ursic next year. What is he going to do without you? You are the perfect exemplar of what it means to dedicate yourself to your passions. Just so those of you can understand how much Mr. Mommersteeg means to this school, let me give you some numbers. Mommer has taught physical education at St. Joseph's for 31 years. In those 31 years Mommer has put in countless hours lining fields, co-ordinating gym times, and helping with school functions.   He has taken 12 teams to OFSAA, winning 1 gold and 1 bronze in girl's soccer and 2 golds and 2 silvers in senior boys basketball. He is a former St. Joe's graduate and father of 2 unbelievable athletes who also attended St. Joe's. Ladies and gentlemen, this man does it all! Your name will live on forever in this school as the basketball court is now named after you. You have been a model of fitness, leadership, and community to all of your students in your classroom. Thank you, Mommer!

The class of 2018 has accomplished so much for St Joe's. Our trophy cases are shinier, and due to all the hardware we've won, the school is now more gold than blue! And, therefore, the smile on Mr. Mommersteeg's face is bigger.  We've brought TVRAA, WOSSAA and OFSAA golds in almost every sport you could name through the doors of this building. We've won OSLC video gold medals AND we were the 2018 student versus teacher basketball game champions! Our legacy will be remembered in this school for years to come.  Future generations of Rams will see us as not just the kids who lost spirit wear, but the kids who changed our school into a friendlier place by running things such as intramurals and Relay for Life which raised a school record $63,000. Together we got involved in a school community that we all loved and believed in. We've made history here at St Joe's and all of you should be proud of this community effort.

If there's one thing I want you to remember when I'm done with this spiel is that your future is what you make of it. Invest yourself in what you love, and invest yourself in everyone around you, for the payoff is great. Put a smile on someone's face and you too will find a smile of your own! Take this with you on your journey into the next chapter of your life. Together, we must grab the future by the horns and as Rams we will go far!