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Follow your dream and make a difference

Erin: (Grabs box and stands on it, looking a little smug that she is taller)

Drey: “Erin, what are you doing?”

Erin: Smiling says, “Drey, I hear you like taller women. (Pause) Bazinga!”

Drey: “Oh, yeah?” (Finds another box, smirks and one ups Erin) saying, “Waddup?”

Erin: (Rage) “Whatever!” (Pause) “So, you wrote the speech, right?”

Drey: “No. I thought you did.”

Erin: "I was too busy perfecting my last comp essay.”

Drey: “I bet I beat ya!”

Erin: “Lies!”

Ever since we were young, competition has been a driving force in our lives. The first thing that usually comes to mind at the word “competition” is sports. But, competition has a broader application than what many perceive. The two of us have been battling it out academically since … well, forever. We have always been competitive in school. From comparing comp essay scores to razzing each other about calculus tests, our friendly competition has only grown. Sometimes, especially when you are young, it isn’t easy to stay competitive about academics when it seems that sports carry all the glory.

Don’t get me wrong; they are important as well. However, in the long run, academics and hard work will pay off. Hard work is another tricky subject. I believe that both of us had loving and supportive parents that helped establish our hard work. But that’s something each person has to find for themselves.

Finding the drive to do well in school can be hard. A good education is key to success, because chances are, you are not going to be a professional sports player (Drey: “Unless you are Beau Howard. I’m still rootin’ for him.”). We also had amazing teachers who saw our potential and forged us into strong students.

Sometimes, we grumbled about certain teachers and their amount of work and expectations of us (cough, Mrs. Aimers), but in the long run, it was worth it. Many of us took college classes our last two years of high school, and it’s paid off. Oh ,sure, we resented the occasional eight-page minimum research paper and nearly cried when letters of the Greek alphabet were thrown into calculus problems, but after we got over the initial shock, we became better for it. We are better because of the teachers who cared enough to push us.

Of course, that isn’t to say there wasn’t any humor involved. Class time wasn’t all torture. The teachers, like many of their students, had entertaining moments.

First, there was Mr. Moen. I’m sure the most memorable experience any of us had with him was during homecoming one year. What we learned from him: being completely Saran-wrapped by Mrs. Grev and trying to run around the gym will undoubtedly end in a facial reconstruction.

Then we have Mrs. Loge and Madame. What they taught us? Never fall asleep in class, because you will either: A) Be startled by an avalanche of books crashing on your desk, or B) Have a sudden sensation of an earful of water shot from a spray bottle.

Next, we have Mrs. Oakley. As 10th-graders, and the humorous bunch we are, we learned that hiding smart-board pens on TOP of the smart-board just out of her reach is not a good idea. Short people are just as scary as the rest of us when provoked.

And from Mr. Demars: We learned that it is all right to make a massive mistake in calculus every once in awhile … (pause, look at each other). Oh, wait, that never happened!

Then we have Mr. Anderson. Incredible historical knowledge, it seems, will not save you from a fender bender. Not even when the van is packed with Knowledge Bowl brainiacs.

And, of course, we have Mrs. Aimers. From her we learned that sometimes the only solution to sheer comp class stupidity is to bang your head repeatedly against a wall.

That’s just a few, and the list is endless. So, yes, we may have just embarrassed a few teachers, but it is a compliment. They are a handful of the many teachers that made an impression on us through high school. I think that is what we should strive to achieve; professions and actions that make lasting impressions on those around us, so that even when we are gone, our actions live on through those around us. But, that is easier said than done. The fear of failure is often overpowering.

Sometimes, there is a nasty little voice in the back of your brain that creeps out when the teachers ask a question and you’re wondering whether or not you should offer your answer. The voice asks, “What if you say the wrong answer? Your classmates will think less of you.” That’s kind of scary. The voice seems like it knows what it’s talking about. So you don’t raise your hand because it’s safer to be quiet. OK, that might seem extreme, but there is truth to it. I know there is truth to it. Because that was me. From sixth grade to the better part of 11th grade, that kid was me. In fact, I still hear that voice to this day. And yet, here I stand; in front of you all, giving a speech. Overcoming fear isn’t easy. But the first step towards success is telling that nasty voice to “Zip its face!” Life gets a lot easier after that. Suddenly, raising your hand isn’t so scary.

So take it from us. Fear does nothing for you. Do not be afraid. Your dream is right there in front of you. It’s playing tag, and you’re it. Chase it. Chase it and catch it and don’t let it go.

So our challenge to the Class of 2013? Use your dream to make a mark on the lives of those you love. Do something positive that will make an impression on those around you, and do not be afraid. In the end, as some wise man once said, you will get out of it what you have put into it. So go out there, put everything you have into what you love, and make a difference. Have no fear of failure, rejection or judgment because who knows: One day, you might just be the focus of a few jokes by two wacky valedictorians.

As for the two of us, we will continue our friendly competition for the next four years. No fear. Go, Bulldogs!

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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