New Smyrna Beach HS Class President Caitlyn Zona: 'Change for each of us'

2012 Cudas Graduation /

Headline Surfer video and photos by Sera Frederick / Caitlyn Zona, president of the 2012 Class of New Smyrna Beach High School adresses her clasmates Saturday night at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, which you can watch by clicking the video. The 17-year-old New Smyrna Beach grad is headed to the University of Central Florida on an academic scholarship where she will major in education.

NSBHS Class of 2012 President Caitlyn ZonaNew Smyrna Beach High School 2012 Class President Caitlyn Zona encouraged her classmates to consider what the word "change" means to them at this point in their lives. Here is the full text of her address:

Good evening school board members, district staff, and Superintendent Smith- thank you for being here with us tonight. Good evening faculty and staff of New Smyrna Beach High School, along with all the families and friends- thank you for making it possible for us to be here tonight. And most importantly good evening to the Class of 2012, who are here tonight for the most important event of a high school career.

It seems like just yesterday we were in middle school, thinking we were all grown. Throughout our middle school years we changed classes, friends, clothing styles, and ourselves. Entering high school, there was a sense of anxiety and excitement. Looking back, it feels like the first day of freshmen year was just yesterday. We all thought what we wore set us apart, who we surrounded ourselves with set us apart, what clubs we joined set us apart, and in some sense, all of these are true. But what really set us apart is the same quality that kept us together; making a difference.

We have witnessed the reform of educational testing shift from FCAT, to the NRT, to the SAT and ACT, and for some the new end-of-the-course exams. All of these standardized tests have created a standardized student population, but we have resisted this movement.

Every student in the audience today has made a difference in the world around us. Some students in front of me tonight are the first to graduate high school in their family; some will be the first to attend college. Other students balance a job and their education to take care of their family. And some of the Class of 2012 has focused on community service and volunteering. Whatever it may be, big or small; our class has represented the change in the world.

Class President Caitlyn Zona receives diploma from Principal Jim Tager.Class President Caitlyn Zona receives her diploma from Principal Jim Tager.

Every student in the audience today has made a difference in the world around us. Some students in front of me tonight are the first to graduate high school in their family; some will be the first to attend college. Other students balance a job and their education to take care of their family. And some of the Class of 2012 has focused on community service and volunteering. Whatever it may be, big or small; our class has represented the change in the world.

As Audrey Hepburn once said, “For attractive lips, speak words of kindness. For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people. For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry. For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day. For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone. As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”

We have heard the word “change” in recent political campaigns; we have heard the word 'change' throughout our high school career, but we can look around and see 'change' inside this very room. Change can be a verb or a noun, with many different connotations and uses. The most important quality of change, though, is the fact that it is continuous no matter what connotation or use. Today, the day of high school graduation, is a change for each of us.

We have heard the word “change” in recent political campaigns; we have heard the word 'change' throughout our high school career, but we can look around and see 'change' inside this very room. Change can be a verb or a noun, with many different connotations and uses. The most important quality of change, though, is the fact that it is continuous no matter what connotation or use. Today, the day of high school graduation, is a change for each of us.

The future will be full of change; economic changes, environmental changes; and more importantly, changes within us. I encourage each and every student graduating today to continue making a difference in the world; be the change you wish to see in the world; and as our class song says, “I Dare You to Move” for this might be the most important thing a person can do to set themselves apart in our global economy and market.

Caitlyn ZonaNSBHS grads clap for Caitlyn ZonaThe 2012 graduating seniors applaud their class president, Caitlyn Zona.

As the world becomes more competitive, standards are being raised as well as expectations. Brains can get you into an Ivy League school, a great jump shot can get you onto a professional team, but creativity, dedication, and perseverance can push you above the rest. Leaving high school will be the biggest change in our life that we have seen to this day. It will force us to create a new life, with new friends, new clubs, new sports, and new work. A new start will offer amazing opportunities and allow for unforgettable experiences, but I ask one thing, never forget where you came from.

We will forever be the graduating Class of 2012 from New Smyrna Beach High School.

In closing, I would like to first thank the incredible educators, administrators, and staff that invested so much time in bettering our future. We all know the quality of education that we have been given is exemplary despite the limited resources and recent budget cuts our schools have faced. Even with these obstacles, we witnessed our educators giving their time to help us reach our potential, and for that, we must show our gratitude. (PAUSE) And now this is our time, Class of 2012. We will all go our separate ways but our roots will remain here.

If I could leave one piece of advice, it would be a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Congratulations to the New Smyrna Beach Class of 2012!

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Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet newspaper serving the Daytona Beach-New Smyrna Beach / Sanford-Orlando metropolitan region via HeadlineSurfer.com, launched in 2008, as Florida's first around-the-clock online newspaper. Frederick is among Florida's most experienced reporters specializing in breaking news & investigative reporting and winner of multiple state, regional & national journalism awards in Florida, New York, Massachusetts & Connecticut. The first of his three books, "Creepy Ass Cracker" (842 pages, Xlibris), hits bookstores this Fall. 
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