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HAPPY GRADUATES — Amber Kent and Kris Parsons were among the many eager graduates excited to start the next chapter.

CULLOWHEE — Embracing the struggle to achieve a higher purpose — that was the theme of Tuscola High School’s 2019 graduation.

The eager graduates were greeted by proud families Saturday morning as, one by one, they made their way across the stage and received their diplomas.

Once graduates were seated, the nation’s colors were presented by Tuscola’s JROTC cadets, and the Seniors and Summit Choir, led by director Martha Brown, sang a stunning rendition of the National Anthem.

After some brief words from Principal Todd Trantham and one more song, graduating senior Zane Edwards introduced the student speaker, Isaac Brooks, whose face — although without a dangling fake beard — was a familiar site to Tuscola sports fans in the crowd.

Brooks’ speech focused heavily on the fact that everyone has a gift they can contribute to society, but only if cultivated through failures and lessons.

“Let’s not make today our biggest accomplishment,” he said.

“We should all use the gifts we’ve been given, because the world will never reach its full potential until we do,” he later added.

Teacher of the Year Maggie Melville’s speech had a similar theme. Her speech, titled “Here we are. So what now?” served to answer its own question. Along with discussing the merits of struggle and failure, she added that part of succeeding is understanding one of life’s greatest lessons.

“The hardest lesson I ever had to learn is that I can’t control everything, but I can control myself,” she said.

Later on in her speech, Melville reminded students of another valuable lesson, one teachers constantly try to impart on their students, one she wanted to stick with the students throughout their adult lives:

“Things can’t be handed to you and mean something.”

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