LINCOLN -- Lincoln's Class of 2023 was sent off with an exhortation from high school principal, Stan Karber, to maintain a fearless vision for their individual lives as graduation ceremonies concluded.
"Seniors do not listen to this talk that you will hear after this moment. This is a step for you. Success, you are tasting it right now, which means you can have it the rest of your life," Karber said, speaking during graduation ceremonies on Thursday. "Any time you hear things like 'now, you're a part of the real world,' I have no idea what that comment means. This is a very real moment. There are people in those stands that are very real. We are very real I think. We are celebrating you. You can hold onto this and you can write your own story, and not have one based out of fear so that when we see you in 20 years, your real world is exactly what you wanted it to be."
Lincoln's graduates numbered 75 in front of a stands packed with well-wishers at Wolfpack Stadium.
Senior Ryleigh Landrum offered a prayer on behalf of the class and their supporting cast.
"Dear Heavenly Father, we thank for this time to celebrate this special occasion in our lives. Thank you to everyone that got us through these past 13 years, including our family, friends and teachers as I pray over each and every student in the Class of 2023," Landrum said. "I pray for guidance as we close this chapter in our lives and begin a new chapter in our lives. I also pray for protection and wisdom as you look over us when we step into this world. I pray that everyone grows in your faith and receives in our own ways. In Jesus' name, I pray, amen."
The Lincoln High School marching band performed the "Star Spangled Banner" and "Battle Hymn Of The Republic."
Senior class president Elizabeth Tran thanked those in attendance for joining in the celebration.
"Today, we celebrate a momentous occasion that opens up a new chapter in our lives, graduation. As we leave behind our high school years, we are embarking on a new journey that is filled with endless possibilities. Some us may go on to college and trade school, while others may start working. No matter what path you choose, I wish the best for all of you, I hope you love what you do," Tran said.
Tran told the class to embrace change and uncertainty, stay curious and open-minded, and be resilient in the face of challenge and setbacks.
"Life is never set in stone and it is up to us to shape it," Tran said. "I encourage you to enjoy life and make the most of it. Find something you are passionate about and enjoy it to the fullest while also enjoying what you want to do."
The Lincoln High School choir performed "Vini Sancte Spritus" under the direction of Mr. Barnes.
Class Salutatorian Tsimtxhua Vang, laughed as he applauded Coach Karber and other people who have tried to pronounce his name throughout the years.
When Vang first came to Lincoln he thought it was going to take a bit of time to fit into the group and into the community, anticipating a couple of months before he would able to fit in with this group, the Class of 2023.
But fitting in only took about a week and a couple of days.
"They were very welcoming to me and to my new coming to the school," Vang said.
Vang said being salutatorian doesn't imply that he was better than his classmates. He attributed that achievement because his parents and teachers set high expectations for him.
"Each student out here has different expectations to reach by their teachers and their own parents, but I wish the Class of 2023 a great year," Vang said.
Class Valedictorian Ngun Par began by thanking all who have gotten her to that point.
"Ever since we were kids, we were always in a hurry to grow up, always focused on what was coming next instead of focusing on the present. When we were 10, we wished to be 13 to officially be a teenager. When we turned 13 we wished to be 15 to finally be old enough to drive, but when 15 came it wasn't enough and we wished to be 18," Par said. "I've finally reached the age I wished for, but there I was wishing I could be a child again because, honestly, I'd rather be worried about how to tie my shoes than to worry about how I'm going to pay for college."
Par described regrets that can be as silly as not attending a football game, joining a sport or club or even staying home for prom, but reminded the class some regrets weigh heavier than others, like not pushing yourself hard enough, being afraid of rejection, letting validation be your motivation and not allowing yourself to relax.
"Fortunately, our regrets can be turned into lessons. We have the ability to take these experiences and have them influence our future choices in the best way possible," Par said.
The class took 10 minutes during the ceremony to present flowers to family and friends in attendance.
Graduate Abigale Sterling presented a flower to band director Jason Burns.
Assistant High School Principal Emilianne Cox called each graduate by name and school board president Kenneth Albright presented the diplomas.
Graduate Nick Moua dropped to the platform and did two pushups after receiving his diploma.
Karber concluded the ceremony with, "We've got some unfinished business. Join me, stand on your feet. Whip your tassels to the other side for me. You have successfully completed everything you were required to complete. School is officially out. Let them fly."
And with that graduation caps were tossed into the sky carrying with them the individual and collective hopes and dreams of the Lincoln Class of 2023.