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20 students graduate from Southwest Open School

SWOS graduates threw their caps to commemorate their graduation on Wednesday night. (Nick Ferraro/Courtesy photo)
Students were encouraged to let the small moments count

Southwest Open School on Wednesday honored graduates who walked across the stage and accepted their diplomas, taking the next step into their future.

After students were welcomed on the SWOS lawn by friends and family, the graduation ceremony was kicked off with a song performed by the Red Sky Group.

Southwest Open School graduates listen to Director Casey Simpson’s speech. (Nick Ferraro/Courtesy photo)

SWOS Director Casey Simpson then welcomed family and friends of the graduates and provided them a quote from the book “Atomic Habits.”

“All big things come from small beginnings,” Simpson read. “The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. But as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger. Roots entrench themselves, and branches grow. The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak, and the task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower, one day at a time.”

“Every action you take is a step toward the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity,” Simpson said. “This is one reason why meaningful change does not require radical change. Small habits can make meaningful difference by combining evidence of a new identity. And if a change is meaningful, it is actually big. That is the paradox to making small improvements.”

Southwest Open School students celebrate as they receive their diplomas. (Nick Ferraro/Courtesy photo)

Simpson told students that the celebration of graduation is neither an end or a beginning, but rather a continuation of a path.

“These young people are not graduating from high school today due to a radical change, a single immense accomplishment or a single decision,” Simpson said. “Today is the culmination of many small choices, works and instances. This celebration is not an end or a beginning. … The diploma will not radically transform any of them. They will still be learners, workers, family members and citizens.”

The speech prepared by Simpson ended with a call to action to students, urging them to keep growing as individuals.

“My call to action for these impressive young people is that they continue to establish themselves as the humans they wish to be through actions big and small. The diploma you’re receiving today is proof that you have all cultivated a beautiful and delicate flower, and that you are ready to embrace a new identity as a high school graduate.”

Class speaker Cheriann Hover encouraged fellow graduates to continue chasing their dreams.

“Just as big things come from small beginnings, the beginning of our lives starts from this small, yet momentous occasion,” Hover said. “No matter where we go or end up, it all started here. Our dreams and goals will lead the way, and that starts today.”

“Let us never forget where we come from,” she said. “Let us celebrate this special last day and let our legacy live on.”

Outgoing art teacher Nate Osgood followed Hover’s speech, thankful that he was chosen to speak by the graduating class.

“Graduating from high school is a huge achievement to the graduating class. This is your day, you have earned it,” Osgood said. “I feel grateful to be asked by this particular group of students because I have so much respect and admiration for their individual journeys and admiration for their ability to be present even with challenges in their personal lives. We’re doing the lifelong work of believing in their self-worth and loving themselves for who they are.”

Osgood shared that the graduating class had become a family.

“You have made a positive difference in my life. I am proud of each of you,” he said. “Each one of the students graduating today has demonstrated the courage to simply be themselves. … We celebrate and honor your journey.”

After students walked across the stage and accepted their diplomas, John Jacobs addressed fellow classmates and graduates.

“These past four years have been filled with headaches and smiles, anger and joy, fear and courage,” Jacobs said. “I’ve seen my friends and myself all open up and leap out of their comfort zones to try extraordinary things, from going on a 10-day trip to California to rafting for the first time. Without the school we may have never had these chances to engage in such unique experiences.”

Jacobs finished his speech by expressing to attendees how much his fellow classmates have come to mean to him after the past four years spent in high school together.

“The people with me are my classmates who I have spent three to four years with, and they are my ideal friends,” Jacobs said. They are the people that have helped me to become the person I am today. These are the type of people that can achieve their dreams, and they every single person up here has done more than enough to earn their diploma, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

After accepting their diplomas, the Class of 2024 threw their caps, symbolizing the closing of one chapter as they eagerly open the next.