Tajfiroozeh named valedictorian, Nikodym salutatorian
By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
Dressed in a black cap and gown and standing at the lectern before a capacity crowd at Brentwood High School’s auditorium on Friday evening, Alex Patton suddenly started to feel not so much old — he’s only 18 — but older.
As the school’s student council president, Patton was delivering a speech at his class of 2015’s commencement ceremony. To his left on the stage were his classmates, almost 60 of them, sitting in six neat rows in their caps and gowns. In front of him, in the darkness beneath the glare of spotlights, were hundreds of his classmates’ relatives and friends.
“Wow, I do not feel like an adult,” he said.
He might have been speaking for his entire class. And if they were thinking that, many in the audience, particularly the proud parents, might have replied:
“Wow, I can’t believe you’re an adult.”
Patton was one of the ceremony’s six speakers, who included valedictorian Darya Tajfiroozeh and salutatorian Julianna Nikodym, whose respective cumulative grade-point averages are 4.26 and 4.21. There was no central theme but several speakers challenged the graduates to concentrate on what is meaningful rather than transitory.
“Limit distractions,” BHS Principal Ed Johnson said. “The distractibility index is through the roof with the emergence of social media and everything else that’s coming at you.”
Said Nikodym: “I encourage you all to take the time to enjoy every moment as it happens, not as it passes.”
She closed with a quote that has been attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
Senior Austin Koster said, “It’s not our abilities that show who we truly are, it’s our choices.”
Koster shared that his father kept a journal of all the things the two of them did together for six years, then gave it to the youngster a couple of years ago. Among the advice in the back of the journal is the axiom “Be careful how you define success.” Added Koster, “Being successful is not the same as being happy.”
But Koster closed with a quote not from his father but from the Green Goblin in “Spider-Man” the movie: “We are who we choose to be.”