Despite an early start due to weather concerns, nearly 300 seniors from the Daniel Hand High School (DHHS) Class of 2017 crossed the stage to receive their diplomas before a cheering crowd of family, friends, and teachers.
The ceremony took place on June 19 at 11:30 a.m. on the Green in front of The First Congregational Church. The event included a performance from Encore and speeches from selected students and faculty.
Valedictorian Anthony Xu shared with the crowd his experience of moving to Madison from West L.A. in the 6th grade. While he admitted moving to Madison was a change, jokingly saying that he had never seen so many white people in his life, he said over time the community began to feel like family. Going forward, Xu said the graduating class members should strive to build their own diverse communities wherever they may go.
“During this time I encourage you to go and start a family of your own…Be there for the people around you even if they are different from you—especially if they are different from you,” he said. “Be someone people can go to.”
Salutatorian Eric Xia gave a speech full of comedy, but also encouraged his fellow graduates to take risks and be bold in the years ahead.
“As you move into the next phase of your lives, I hope you find something you love and pursue it with all of your heart…Your life is fleeting, so don’t waste your time trying to be somebody else,” he said.
While the ceremony was marked by many comedic speeches, Jacob Brown, who delivered the class remarks, reflected on his time at DHHS with a more serious note. Brown said he battled depression during his high school years and thanked the community for its support.
“I am standing here today because of all of you,” he said. “None of you knew what I was going through, none of you knew that you could never see me again, yet I was treated the same and that meant so much more to me than anyone could ever imagine. You would say genuine things to me, make me laugh, let me borrow your stuff, and so much more and all of this is because the Class of 2017 consists of such respectful, genuine people and I couldn’t be more thankful.”
DHHS Principal Anthony Salutari congratulated the Class of 2017 members on their success and wished them well in their future endeavors. Salutari, who came to DHHS for his first year with the Class of 2017 back in 2013, said it has been a pleasure to see this class grow.
“I thank you for making my first four years at Hand great ones,” he said. “I am confident that your efforts over the last four years have prepared you for the many exciting opportunities the future will offer.”