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Student ‘stones’ molded for strong futures

Today, The DAILY LEADER continues its publication ofvaledictorian and salutatorian speeches from the Class of 2011.Today’s address is from Kelli Anne Terrell, Mississippi School ofthe Arts valedictorian.

My fellow 2011 graduates, it is an honor to come before you,your families, and your friends today as valedictorian.

As you have only known me for the past two years, I would likeyou to know that I was quite an unusual child.

I don’t know the various toys and trinkets you may have askedSanta Claus for over the years, but I vividly remember one of myfavorite Christmas gifts. Sometime around my seventh or eighthChristmas, I begged and pleaded for a rock tumbler.

Now, I’m sure everyone of you knows how these interesting littlemachines work, but if not, it is very simple. All you had to do wasgo into your driveway or a nearby creek and find a few rough,rugged-looking rocks in which you recognized a potential to bebeautiful. You would then put them all together in the tumbler,turn it on, and it would bounce them all around together. Afterseveral days of being violently flung into one another, these rockscould shape and smooth each other into the most beautifulstones!

When I began to try to sum up our experience at MSA over thepast two years, my mind was brought to this process of rocktumbling. We were all plucked from our various hometowns, havingjust finished 10th grade, as rough stones. But our variousadmittance judges must have seen our artistic potential.

And so we were all put into this big tumbler together.

For the past two years, we have all endured the various trialsof being flung in a million different directions and having allparts of ourselves sanded and smoothed.

It is no secret that our time here was certainly not easy. Butwe have made it, my dear classmates, and look at how beautiful wehave all become.

I know I am not only speaking for myself when I say we have allmolded and changed each other in ways we will never forget. It isundeniable, though, that our time in our personal tumbler has cometo a close.

This school has been a haven, a sanctuary for all of us. Comingfrom schools where we were the ones who were always just a littlebit too different, we were immersed in an environment full ofunderstanding. However, the world into which we are now steppingwill likely not be so kind.

It will be much more difficult for us to find open minds andhearts, ready and willing to take us for who we are, but what atremendous blessing that we have had this time together at all,when just 10 years ago, there was no such place for us.

As we say our goodbyes and move on to new places scatteredacross this country and world, we have a responsibility. Because wereceived this gift of being molded and learning from each other, wemust now conquer the challenges of society and allow ourselves tobe tossed into new tumblers.

We will forever carry the knowledge gained here in our heartsand as we bounce around with brand new stones, we can use what wehave acquired to shape, smooth, and mold those around us, and alsocontinue to allow ourselves to be molded. It is the beauty of thehuman experience, and we were blessed with a concentrated dose ofit at the Mississippi School of the Arts.

I look at you all and see such potent talent and passion, and Ihave faith that our class will go into the world and truly make animpact. I must thank you all so sincerely for the work you havedone on my heart.

Now go out and change someone else’s heart for the better.Preferably, millions of someones.

Kelli Anne Terrell, of Summit, is the daughter of Andy andChris Terrell.