WARNING: This story contains information about suicide. If you or a loved one is thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) at 1-800-273-8255. The NSPL provides 24-hour, free support to those in distress, as well as prevention and crisis resources for you or loved ones.
While Summit High School, along with every other school in Williamson County typically sees its graduation ceremonies commence in May, the world-changing coronavirus pandemic saw Summit push its graduation ceremony all the way to July 18.
While the delayed ceremony, loss of prom and spring sports was not lost on Summit's class of 2020, Valedictorian Cole Gershkovich shared a personal story during Summit's graduation ceremony at the AG Expo Center Saturday that he felt mirrored that of the pandemic: that through dark times can come the "brightest moments."
"These are dark times, but here we are sharing one bright moment together," Gershkovich said. "I'd like to tell you about one of the brightest moments I have ever experienced, hidden within the single darkest day of my life."
"On the evening of July 18, 2019, exactly one year ago, I tried to take my life. I remember police and EMTs trying to get the story out of me, but my throat just wouldn't let my voice come out. A few minutes later, one of my friends rushed over. I had the strength to stand up and to let them lead me into the ambulance. One of the EMTs asked my friend if he was going to come to the emergency room with us."
"That was that moment, because my friend couldn't even register what they had asked him. It took him a couple second for him to say 'yea, I'm going to go with him,' like it was the silliest question in the world. I understood [then] what the poets talk about, the painters, the old songs, the new songs. It all goes back to love."
While also sharing in the grief of a partially lost senior experience, Salutatorian Mikayla Fantine pointed to the bevy of positive experiences her and her classmates experienced over the course of the last year.
"Due to the coronavirus pandemic, we have lost most of the laughs that make our senior experience truly special," Fantine said.
"We had to sacrifice our senior prom, our senior prank, our senior skip day, the last musical, the senior seasons of our spring sports, time with our friends, and a last day of school that we know to cherish and say our goodbyes."
"But we still have so many memories to fill in the gaps."
"For example, we went to football for state for the first time this year. Junior year, volleyball beat Page in the district tournament in a huge upset. There were multiple marching band competitions, there were many school musicals... Fill the Pineapple was a staple of our student section. And this year we finally won the Homecoming float decorating contest."
"This is only the end of the beginning of our lives. For some of us, we continue on to college. Others to technical school, the military or the workforce. Whatever path we choose, it will lead us on the greatest adventure: life. Let us come out of this challenging time stronger and ready to face anything thrown at us."