Nearly 400 students celebrated at the Manhattan High School graduation ceremony Sunday at Bramlage Coliseum.
Family, friends and teachers filled the seats to watch the students and listen to student speakers give advice and their perspectives.
Greg VanDyke Jr., who said he “rocks the nickname Preacher G,” gave an uplifting, hopeful message for his peers.
He recalled building friendships and enduring loss throughout their years together, saying he believed all the students were winners for getting back up when life knocked them down. He also reminded them that sometimes, when life knocks them down, they can ask for help from those around them.
“It’s going to be OK if you’re not fully OK,” VanDyke said. “The truth is, we did not get here by ourselves. We’ve had the support of family and friends.”
He said they may start to believe the old adage of “the grass always looks greener on the other side,” but gave them tips to get their own green grass.
“If you plant your seeds, give them water and sunlight, cut the grass as it continues to grow, your grass will be just as green,” he said.
He led them in a chant — “I believe that we just won” — as he ended his speech.
The second speaker, Jered Zhang, said he wanted to take a more realistic approach.
Zhang said the world is what the students will make of it.
He told the mythology of the Greek king Sisyphus, who was punished for being deceitful by being forced to push a rock up a steep hill for eternity, only to have the rock roll back down the hill every time it neared the top. He said life could be equally disappointing sometimes for his peers.
“Some of you will work for others to feed yourselves to continue to work,” he said. “Your work may not be owned by you. We’ve all heard of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, but what about the engineers who work for them?”
For the entire audience, he gave a reminder of change.
“It’s never too late to dream of something better, if not for you, then for your children or grandchildren,” he said.
After the final students crossed the stage, Principal Greg Hoyt congratulated the students, reminded them to be careful in their celebrations and dismissed them a final time, which was met with cheers, applause and a rain of graduation caps.