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NFA Class Speaker Dakota Burns

When planning for graduation in this crazy year, I did not think one of my dilemmas would be finding a mask that went well with my graduation gown. Thankfully, I was relieved of that awful stress and was given this one. Really kind of sums up high school during a global pandemic, right?

Not to sound redundant, but I know everyone is thinking it: what a year. I remember last year, sitting in my boyfriend’s car with him and his parents. It was pouring rain, and we watched his face flash on screen for a few seconds. That’s when I thought to myself, “please do not let this be how my graduation goes.” I was ecstatic when I found out that we would be having an in-person graduation and, on behalf of the entire Class of 2021, thank you to everyone who made this a reality. We are grateful.

Throughout my four years at NFA, I was always focused on the future. Ironically, my ideas for said future changed almost every two months. If you would have asked freshman year Dakota what path she would take, she would have said, “I’m going to be a lawyer and get into Harvard!” Well, we can all see how that worked out. Even up until about April, if you were to ask me my path, I would have told you I was leaving for bootcamp in five months.

The point is, change is okay, and you have to embrace it. That’s the main thing this year has taught me. You never know what is going to happen next, and you have to always be ready, while never losing sight of who you are.

I was faced with a lot of challenges in high school -- many things I never expected to encounter along the way. But that doesn’t mean I dwell on them every day. Part of growth is moving on from the things that hurt you.

I can confidently say now that the experiences I’ve had in high school, as cliche as it may be, have shaped me into the person I am today.

When we went fully online back in the fall, and then it got extended, I’m willing to bet I wasn’t the only person who was ready for our senior year to be over right when it started.

Thankfully, though, things went well -- as well as they can in a global pandemic -- and I think with what we were given, we made the best of it. For that, I just want to take a moment and say to each of you, congratulations, and I am proud of you. Those are some words that I always need to hear, and I’m sure in these crazy times, with all of us going onto amazing futures, you do, too. This was not easy, but we did it.

I am so glad to be a part of such a great class. I see how hard everyone worked, and it’s paid off. Just to be sitting here, on this night, is not something every person can say they have done, and for that, I am proud of you.

The future is scary, especially now. Everything is so modern, new and constantly changing. Whether you have a concrete plan, a vague idea or no idea at all, that is okay. If you have a plan and decide five years from now it’s not what you want, that is okay, too.

Only you can decide what is best for yourself, and only you can decide what is going to make you happy. Change your major, take a gap year, get a different job. Whatever it takes to make you happy. In a world where such big responsibilities and expectations are placed on us from such a young age, make it your world.

To everyone heading to college, I wish you the best and good luck in your classes. To those going to work, thank you for being a part of the backbone of our nation. And, to those of you, like me, who are going into the armed forces, thank you in advance for your service. I look forward to serving alongside you as brothers and sisters in arms.

Thank you, and congratulations.

Dakota Burns is the Class Speaker.



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