By Mariel Williams
BELTON — Salutatorian Ethan Burstedt credits high school with teaching him communication, cooperation and innovation, but not time management.
“Like many New Tech projects, I wrote this speech the day it was due,” Burstedt said in his graduation speech Thursday.
Belton New Tech High School @ Waskow held its graduation Thursday afternoon at the Bell County Expo Center. Teacher Marisa Nave delivered the commencement address, and other speakers included valedictorian Evan Seils, Belton Independent School District Superintendent Susan Kincannon, Key Club president Maia Borchardt and others.
Nave spoke about her own memories of the past four years, both the happy ones and the ones marked by tragedy, and she encouraged the 125 graduates — up from 116 last year — about their future.
“You’re going to see the world in new, beautiful, but possibly frightening ways,” she said. “I want you to know that you are going to be fine. You’re going to acquire a wealth of experiences that will give your life more depth and meaning.”
Nave told the graduates that they will experience failure and will grow from the experience.
“Remember you have your entire New Tech family cheering you on,” she said. “We hope amazing things for you. We are praying for you always and we love you so much.”
Burstedt spoke about the different ways in which New Tech helped him grow. When he started high school, he said, he was quiet and withdrawn.
“I preferred to work alone and I didn’t really like to make small talk,” he said. “I learned that projects do not get finished if you will not talk to the people in your group. New Tech has really helped me develop my communication skills.”
That communication facilitates cooperation, helping those group projects achieve innovation, a New Tech focus.
“Students are always encouraged to break boundaries and change the status quo,” Burstedt said. “Through our mistakes, we get better.”
Seils spoke about his favorite high school experiences, such as competing with the robotics team and being one of the founding members of the New Tech Film Collective. This was his second attempt at writing his speech, he said.
“When Mr. Smith asked me to write a 4- to 5-minute speech for graduation, I sat down and watched way too many graduation speeches before I finally tried writing one for myself,” Seils said.
The valedictorian said that he does not feel equipped to give the class of 2018 advice.
“What could I, a 17-year-old kid with no more life experience than anybody else my age, really say that hasn’t been said a million times before?” he said. “Here’s what I can say: Over the past four years, everybody sitting out in the audience in front of me has done amazing things.”
Seils praised his classmates’ accomplishments in athletics, rock climbing, music, engineering and dance, among others.
“I was constantly challenged and impressed by every single one of you sitting out in front of me,” he said. “While New Tech may have changed from year to year, the amount of very creative people that I get to call my New Tech family stayed the same.”
Seils finished his remarks with encouragement for the future.
“I realize that I may not be able to say anything that hasn’t been said a million times before, but some things are worth saying a million times,” he said. “I wish everybody in the class of 2018 the best of luck anywhere you go, with anything you choose to do.”
In his salutatorian speech, Burstedt included a quote about making good decisions that he credited to “a wise instructor at New Tech.”
In finishing her remarks, Nave concluded with a longer version of the same statement. “Because this is the last time I will ever get to speak to you as your teacher,” she said, “I am going to end this just like I have ended every class we have ever had together: Have a good day. Make good choices. Don’t text and drive. Congratulations, class of 2018.”