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Valedictorian- Kamryn Endress' Addresses Class

by Kami Endress, West Central 2017 Graduating Senior

I've had a hard time coming up with the perfect advice to give my classmates on this day, advice that will give them confidence to enter the world on their own, because frankly, I need that advice myself.

So, instead, I'm just going to talk about some of the experiences that I've had that I believe are going to help me in the future, and hope that it may help all of them as well.

A couple of summers ago, eleven West Central FFA members went to a leadership conference in Washington D. C. A few of those members are graduating with me today and will agree with me that this conference was incredible.

We were able to tour the monuments, immerse ourselves in the history of this great nation and gain valuable leadership skills we will utilize the rest of our lives.

Every night we spent there, we also attended a leadership training event. These events really opened our eyes to certain situations we will no doubt, face in life.

One night, we attended a poverty dinner. This is a dinner where you are randomly assigned to be a first, middle or low class citizen and your dining experience reflected that.

Those chosen to be first class citizens were able to be seated first, at tables with the finest china covered in white tablecloths. They feasted on an amazing meal and were waited on hand and foot.

Middle class received most of the same food, but were seated at cafeteria tables, and they served themselves. The low class received a bowl of rice to share. They sat on the floor. They couldn't eat until the upper and middle class had received their food.

There was also one other group, they put some of us in that night. It was the "Disaster" group. These kids were put in a corner, no food, no drinks and had caution tape around them. They represented people who lived in poverty stricken countries, the Red Cross workers who go into natural disaster areas to offer aid, and people living in war torn areas around the world.

In that short time that we were divided into the four groups, we witnessed a wide range of reactions and emotions. We watched kids who felt so bad that they were chosen to be upper class citizens that they wouldn't eat and appeared sad as they glanced over at their friends sitting on the floor waiting for their rice.

We witnessed kids who asked for seconds and thirds of the first class meal, and those who barely touched their food but instead threw it away because they didn't like what they were served.

Most of the middle class kids were content with their meal and accommodations. From time to time we did see them glance over at the first class tables with a hint of jealousy, and look at those in the lower class sections, with pity.

The low class and disaster group kids expressed their anger for being placed in their group, for not being given the same treatment as those in middle or upper class. Some of them fought over the little food they had, while others sat there quietly feeling embarrassed.

Of course in the end, they did bring us back together and gave everyone the opportunity to eat the same meal.

Another night, we entered into a conference room and were greeted by camp facilitators who were setting out these huge bins filled with little rubber bouncy balls. The facilitators explained to us that they were going to dump these balls all over the room, and that it was our job to pick them up.

The task at hand didn't seem too difficult until they told us we only got to pick up one ball at a time and we had to gently place it back into the bin.

They explained to us that each one of these balls represented one life. We were to help these lives in times of trouble, when they were lost, and needed someone to pick them up and help get them back on track.

Some were close to the bins, others were in the furthest, darkest corners of the room. Sometimes we walked them straight to the bin ourselves. Other times we formed a line and passed the ball down and worked as a team to get this ball back to the place it needed to be.

As we were doing this, the facilitators were dumping the bins out, forcing us to start all over.

In our last leadership session, we all came together to package food for those in need in the Washington DC area. We packaged thousands of meals that day.

I learned a lot that week. I witnessed how circumstances often dictate behavior. We are all going to find ourselves fitting into one of these "classes" I spoke about earlier. We may go straight into one class and never leave, and we may find ourselves in all of them at different points in our lives.

Regardless of where you end up, be kind. Show empathy. Don't judge based on what you see and remember that everyone deserves to be treated with respect. Don't ever take what you have for granted as circumstances can and will change in the blink of an eye.

I learned that when someone needs help, you give it to them. Some people may need just an encouraging word to get back on track, while others may need the help of several. Some people will need your help more than once. You may find yourself needing help at some point as well. Don't ever be afraid to ask for help.

Pay it forward. Volunteer your time. Invest in the youth of your community. Show them, through your own actions and behavior, how to make a positive contribution to society. We all grew up in a very generous community with people who have been more than willing to give us the tools we need to succeed in life.

Kamryn finished her speech by thanking everyone and wishing them well