Ken Benke feels a lot of pressure. So does her classmate Grace Baldock.
Both seniors at Mazama High School, they are looking forward to graduation this June, and after must decide what to do with the rest of their lives.
They’re not alone. More than 700 Klamath Basin seniors are in the same position.
Those seniors from all Basin-area high schools filled the Ross Ragland Theater Thursday morning for Graduation Motivation, kicking off their last year of high school with a keynote address by motivational speaker A’ric Jackson.
He challenged seniors to break out of preconceived boxes of who they think they are and what they can do with their lives.
“Don’t be scared to destroy your box,” he told the seniors. “I’m not talking about your comfort zone. I’m talking about that one thing, that when it happened in your life … it changed how you interacted with other people. … that one thing one person said about you, that’s their opinion, that you now make your reality.”
He talked about limitations. “The most dangerous … is the limitations we put on ourselves. Now here’s the thing, as a senior in high school, it is easy to put a whole bunch of limitations on yourself because according to the world, you should look this way, you should act this way … you should be able to do this …”
And he acknowledged the pressure seniors face before they graduate, and said many limit themselves, for example, by not applying to a college because they think they won’t get accepted.
“That self-limitation,” he told the seniors, “is the hardest limitation you can face because no one else can break that limitation down and destroy that box except you, and unless you believe in yourself enough, unless you feel like you can do it …”
He emphasized his next words: “Stop setting your standards according to everybody else because they don’t know you.”
The purpose of the event was to motivate seniors to stay on track for graduation and to think about the future. That future, for many, is still an unknown.
“I really have no idea,” Benke said when asked what she wants to do after high school graduation. “Maybe study phlebotomy.”
Baldock knows she wants to go to college, but doesn’t know what she plans to study yet.
Representatives from Oregon Institute of Technology, Klamath Community College and Kingsley Air National Guard also talked with students about their futures.
Jack Lee, principal at Henley High School, has attended the event for the past three years with his school’s seniors. “I think it’s a great way to kick off the seniors’ 2019 school year,” he said. “This gets them thinking, and keeps their eyes on the prize. They have a lot of work to do between now and graduation.”
Senior year is stressful for soon-to-be graduates. Many college applications are due before January as well as financial aid forms and scholarships. College-bound seniors also must schedule SAT or ACT exams.
Graduation Motivation bookends with the Graduation Sensation at the end of May, where all graduating seniors parade down Main Street and are eligible for some $30,000 in scholarships donated by the community.
The event was sponsored by Klamath Promise, Herald and News, Pacific Power, Klamath Community College, Oregon Institute of Technology, Kingsley Field Air National Guard, Cascade Health Alliance, Papa Murphy’s, Subway Sandwiches and Dutch Bros Coffee.
Press release provided from the Klamath County School District.