BELDING — As 149 Belding seniors congregated on Rudness Field as students of Belding High School for one final hour, it was class speaker Bethany Childs who summarized the final transition as students to adults on graduation day.
“Tonight we stand on this field not as high schoolers, but as adults,” she said. “Sure many of us say, ‘I’m ready to be out of here,’ but the truth is we all have had very fond memories of Belding High School, ones that we will remember for the rest of our lives. After tonight we start our new journeys down our own individual roads … relish the moment and seize the day, and most importantly, take the road less traveled.”
To thunderous applause from an audience that filled the home bleachers at Rudness Field to well over capacity, the graduating class of 2012 received their diplomas Thursday evening and became official graduates of Belding High School.
The 149 who walked were part of a graduating class of 163 students at Belding High School. Nine students also graduated from the school’s adult education program, with six of them walking and receiving their diplomas Thursday evening.
As Superintendent Leslie Mount pointed out, this was the first graduating class at Belding High School to have completed their K-12 education entirely in the new century.
“You finished your kindergarten year in 2000 and are now graduates, congratulations,” she said. “You have amongst you many talents — national merit scholars, all state athletes, award winning musicians, artists and performers. The best advice I can give you is use those talents to the best of your ability and promote the further good for all of us. We’re counting on you, so make us all proud.”
As students sat in their black robes on a windy but beautiful evening with the sun shining down before setting behind the press box at Rudness Field, guest speaker and distinguished alumnus Patrick Bowler, who graduated from Belding High School in 1964 and served as a judge in Grand Rapids for 24 years with 10 years as chief judge of the court before retiring in 2008, provided the students with some words to live by.
“It has been said that there is a life hidden inside each and every one of us, a life of high purpose,” Bowler said. “There is a life within each and every one of you and it has a high purpose. You must listen to yourself … beneath the surface, there is a deeper, truer life.”
Bowler asked that each student take a moment to reflect, search their soul and spend their future time wisely.
“Take your shoes off and walk on the beach of one of our great lakes and listen to the waves … the waves that rise up from your soul,” he said. “We are spending down our lives everyday, so I say to you, spend it wisely. As you sail away, spend it as the wise captain of your ship. Spend it on the life inside you.”
Class speaker Meghan Loser asked her students to graduate with one final request, to make a difference in the world.
“I think that we have all learned, in one way or another, that life is a never-ending process,” she said. “We have all had an immense impact on each other … we each have something great to offer and I hope as we move on from this place we will all find how our unique character and abilities fit into the world. Look forward to making a difference in the world and look forward to life.”