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Bradi Gates cap and gown photo.

Good evening; friends, family, faculty, and of course graduates! Congratulations and thank you all for being here. I am honored to be speaking to you today.

Reflecting on the journey we have all been on to get where we are today, I think about being a child. Growing up, we are always asked what we want to be when we get older. When I was 5 growing up in Nashville, I of course said a country rock star, and when I was 8 and going through a rebellious phase, I said a pirate. For many years following with money in sight, I said a doctor. 

I thought that I had life all set as a little girl, but never in a million years would I have guessed that I would be giving a salutatorian speech at a high school in Tropic, Utah, but here we are.

Looking back, I remember my first day of school here, filled with uncertainty in an unfamiliar place. Adjusting to a new and super small school was not an easy thing, but well worth it. I remember walking into first hour Spanish class, sitting in a room with only 2 others (Javier and Kamryn). I looked around wondering when the rest of our class was going to show up, only for Mr. Livi to proceed with his lesson like it wasn’t out of the ordinary to have a class with only three students. I was confused and terrified.

As my first day came to a close I was informed that I had to go to “Mustang Time.” Having no clue what or where “Mustang Time” was I asked Skyler where I was supposed to go. She said, “Oh! That’s Chelsea!”

So I wandered around the single circular hall, looking for a door with Chelsea on the nameplate. After not finding it, I found Paisley instead and she gave me the same response, “Oh that’s Chelsea’s class.”

So once again I walked in circles and unsuccessfully looked for Chelsea’s classroom. Still having no luck I figured the third time’s the charm and I asked Taylor. “I cannot find Chelsea’s classroom.” So she walked me there. Turns out I wasn’t lost or crazy, but no door was labeled Chelsea; It was Ms. Thompson.

That day I learned that we call teachers by their first name in this school. New thing to me, but it’s like a comfy friendship with teachers Dayne and Shayne and Chelsea and LaRee and Jeff. So quickly, it felt like I knew them all so well.

Bradi Gates speaking at the "BV" podium at Bryce Valley's graduation.
Bradi Gates speaks at Bryce Valley High School’s graduation May 24, 2024. Courtesy of Bradi.

Though I could quickly connect, I was missing the physical matching names to faces due to wearing masks. During every class, I would play a fun game and imagine the bottom half of everyone’s face. I was pretty good at it until Mr. B came along. The first time seeing his full face still to this day was the most shocking experience. I mean that in the kindest way. Many thanks for all you do. 🙂

In a small town, everyone knows everyone, and to me that sounds first intimidating, but next comforting. Some of you may know wayyy too much about me, some of you not at all. My point is, the closeness of everyone here brings a sense of belonging; it makes this community so special. Whether we were cheering on sports, showing up to events, or sharing a meal together, we show up. All the memories made in high school were thanks to you guys. To my classmates, teachers, coaches, and all of our parents, I express my gratitude to each of you for fun and memorable times.

To sum up, I have been taught so many things, a few being the value of simplicity, importance of community, and embracing the present moment. Bryce Valley has had a way of leaving a mark in my heart that I will never forget. There is so much stress and worry in the most vulnerable 4 years of our lives, but we’re onto a new chapter; with maybe more stress and more worry, but also so much growth.

Today marks the beginning of 16 individual journeys filled with so many blessings, and I’m excited to see where life leads each of us. I hope we can all continue our lives with gratitude for the experiences we have had, the bond we have created, the memories we have shared, and the lives we have touched. Let us all go forward with determination and a belief in our potential for success.

Graduation is the event stemming a huge change in our lives, and no matter what, we should be appreciative because it is beautiful. If you have it all planned out or have no idea like me, that’s okay. Life is going to change for us all; new people to meet, schools to attend, jobs to apply to, and new families to create. It will all be for the better. 

We have all worked hard to get to where we are today, and no doubt we will only go up from here. No matter what happens in life, remember where you came from and all you have done to get to where you are. Be happy and be present while we all let our lives play out.

Thank you.

by Bradi Gates, Salutatorian, Bryce Valley High School

Feature image caption: Bradi Gates, one of two Bryce Valley Salutatorians. Courtesy of BVHS.

Read the other Bryce Valley speeches in Be Resilient by Oscar Word, Let Yourself Be Happy by Skyler Ott, and Three Things I’ve Learned from this Journey by Gracie Wiseman.