McCartan gives grads life 'cheat sheet'
May 19, 2014
From left, Ashlyn Schettler, Bobbie Jo Wempe and Andrea Wempe exchange high-fives after Carroll High School’s graduation Sunday afternoon in the CHS gym.
Now that they'd completed their final tests and were ready to receive their diplomas, Carroll High School guidance counselor, psychology teacher and football coach Dennis McCartan told the 106 CHS graduates, it was OK to share with them his cheat sheet. His cheat sheet for life, that is.
On his cheat sheet, McCartan has: further education and high aspirations, the correct order of family and career in life, signs of adulthood, and the importance of treating everyone with respect and courtesy.
"Why is it important to further your education, whether in college or other avenues? Why is it important to always want to know more?" McCartan, who was featured speaker at Sunday's graduation, said. "The dirty little secret: You work because you have a certain quality of life in your head that you want to achieve. It's called work for a reason. I have yet to hear someone say, 'Well, it's off to play.' The reality of life is we all want to be successful."
Aim to do your best, nobody should aspire to be mediocre, he added.
"Put yourself in position to make a good living through education and hard work," McCartan urged the graduates.
But at the same time, he cautioned, have the right priorities in life.
"I suggest that you love your family and like your job or career," he said. "Some say, 'I don't have a job, I have a career.' Good for you. If you are going home to your career, I feel sorry for you."
McCartan then took a quick survey of the students, asking how many thought they were now adults. After many had raised a hand, he responded, "No you are not an adult. You will become an adult when you have a mortgage, pay all your own bills and can change a diaper with one hand while eating off of your other child's plate with your other hand. As Mr. (Brian) Tigges (CHS social studies teacher) puts it, 'Right now you are just money-suckers."
While students may now pay a lot of their own bills for car, clothes and iPhone, McCartan said, "Good for you, but when you lie awake at night worrying about your family, bills, another person's health, then you are an adult. You are still kids."
He continued, "Parents are perceptive and, seniors, some day you will be too. They can see through senioritis, that smart mouth of yours that's been running all year, the bending of the rules, everything.
"They can see through it all and still see you as the apple of their eye. You are still daddy's little girl. You are still mom's little man."
Finally, McCartan drew cheers from the audience with his advice to graduates to make sure to always be courteous and treat others with respect. Say "please" and "thank you" often, he said.
"I don't care how much money you make in your life, you're not better than the waiter or waitress at a restaurant. You're not better than the customer service person on the phone. Saying 'please' and 'thank you' goes a long way in life."
Commencement's other speakers included co-valedictorians Daric Teske and Stephanie Schneider and salutatorian Colton Thompson. Teske and Schneider both finished with 3.994 grade-point averages and Thompson with 3.993.
CHS principal Tammie McKenzie noted the students' speeches mirrored the class motto: "What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are small matters compared to what lies within us," from Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Teske, son of David and Dayna Teske, addressing "What Lies Behind," said, "These last four years might have shown us our breaking points, or where we can excel. For me, I found that I have an aptitude for computers. On a side note, shortly after the rest of the high school figured this out, I began having this recurring nightmare. In it, everyone truly believed that I was the cause of all the school's computer problems, and an angry mob with torches and pitchforks followed me from class to class, until they eventually caught me, shouting 'Daric! Fix it.'
"All of these things are now a part of our past. We've been there, and we've done that. Our own personal experiences have shaped us into who we are today. I want to thank all of the teachers we've had over the years for providing us the best education possible. They have worked hard to make us better students, and better people. A thank you also goes out to the administration and support staff, for keeping this school running the way it should be. Lastly, I'd like to thank all of my classmates for making my time here so enjoyable. Just remember, starting today, all of this has now become part of 'What lies behind.'"
Schneider, daughter of Amy Bernholtz, shared thoughts on "What Lies Ahead," saying, "The future is a lot to take in. It is hard to believe isn't it? It hasn't hit me that high school is over yet. It won't fully hit us today, nor throughout the summer. When our family brings us to college, helps us unpack, says their goodbyes, and then walks out the door, the shutting click of the door is something you will never forget. The feeling then hits you. You are on your own. But, with the click of the door, comes another one opening. Through that open door, you see opportunities, journeys, and a timeline. On that timeline, lies your future endeavors: college, a career, a wedding, a house, children, travel, possibly a new career, et cetera. These are all positive events. Negative times will occur as well: financial instability, stress, a midlife crisis, death of loved ones, etc. But, it is all a part of life.
"We have so much ahead of us, it is impossible to wrap this concept around our heads. We don't know what our future holds. But, we can only take off sprinting. In track, runners will place their feet in starting blocks in order to gain extra momentum. Carroll Community School District was our starting block. It is now our job to sprint. When running, don't forget to sometimes reminisce on the past. Remember those great moments with your friends. Remember the Carroll School's wonderful faculty and how they were a large part of raising us. Remember those smaller things that will now become the biggest. But, don't hang onto the past either. Continue to look ahead as you sprint. You have a new motivation to end life's race the best you can, so use it. Dream big everyone and follow the right path. You only live one life, so make it worth living."
Speaking on "What Lies Within Us," Thompson, son of Jodi Morenz and Scott Thompson, said, "At this point in our lives, it is impossible to know what strengths or weaknesses we have within. The only way to find out is through our experiences, both good and bad. For the next few years, you will be discovering what you are really made of. Through these experiences, what lies within will finally come to light. It may not be pretty, and it may not be what you expected. Fortunately, though, we can learn from these experiences and improve ourselves. In fact, we have to improve ourselves or else our lives very well may turn out to be failures. If world-renowned chemist Walter White has taught us anything, it's that if you apply yourself, you are capable of anything. Well, that and don't trust owners of fast-food chains.
"Now, don't get me wrong here, life isn't going to be one long, miserable nightmare, far from it. They say high school is the best time of your life. I sure hope not. That means that this right here, right now, this is our peak, and I don't want that to be true. I look around at everybody here, and I know for a fact that isn't going to be true. Every single one of us can be more than this. Graduating from high school is a big step, sure, even momentous, but there is so much more out there. Within ourselves, we all the have the capability to do great things. The opportunities are out there, we just have to grab them. And it's up to each and every one of us to do that. ..."
"... What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are small matters compared to what lies within us. They may be small matters, but they are directly responsible for what we find within ourselves. We are shaped by our experiences, and it's up to us to decide whether we will be strengthened by the fires of the forge of life, or if we will crumble under the pressure. What lies within is unique to every one of us. As long as you're happy with what you find, you'll have a, successful life. Now, I'm not sure what that may entail for you. That's a question you'll have to answer for yourself."