On Saturday, 195 students of the Rustburg High School Class of 2019 gath-ered at the Vines Center at Liberty University to mark the end of their high school journey. Class President Leah Eick opened by encouraging her fellow graduates to see themselves as people who can impact their world in the present time as they reach this stepping stone in their lives. “We are no longer the future generation. We are now,” Eick said. Aaron Bailey, class salu-tatorian, dreams of work-ing for NASA one day and exploring outer space. He admitted that he is uncomfortable speaking and sharing personal stories in pub-lic but said, “I realized this was the time that I needed to challenge myself and to grow from this opportunity.” Bailey went on to tell the audience about a time of difficulty he faced in 2016 when he broke his arm in a karate championship tournament and had to forfeit the fight. Shortly after re-turning to the hotel after leaving the hospital, he learned that his grandfather had passed away. His mother and aunt decided to return home. Al-though devastated from losing his grandfather and being unable to finish to the tournament after many years of hard work, Bailey made the tough decision to stay with his team at the tournament. It was a decision he said helped build character by giving himself to those around him. “I was torn between my biological family and my karate family,” Bailey said. “I didn’t know what to do. I thought about the situation and, after calming down, I reached a conclusion: I knew I had to stay at the tournament. I could have easily gone home with the rest of my family, and I wouldn’t have lost any-thing personally by leaving because I was already un-able to compete for the rest of the tournament. However, I chose to stay with my friends and my teammates. They needed me to coach and support them and I was not gonna let them down. Because of my decision, my cousin also decided to stay and he was able to compete the rest of the week. My family supported my decision and they understood the integrity of my choice.” Bailey closed by encouraged the graduating class to make decisions with others in mind instead of just themselves, and to not be afraid to open up to life’s opportunities. Valedictorian Daniel Smith recounted the class’s course of growth beginning in kindergarten all the way through their senior year, as well as the challenges and joys that come with the natural progression.
For more on Rustburg Graduation and photos, see this week's Altavista Journal.