Matt Payne-Ellensburg Morning Commencement 2013

Four years ago I graduated from Henry M Jackson High School. If you asked me on that day I would have laughed at the thought of graduating college with honors or giving a commencement speech. At that point I did not know what to expect in the future.

I had graduated with a 2.2 GPA and was conditionally accepted into Central through STAR. In high school, I really had not cared about school until my senior year and I really did not think I would care in college. My friends like to remind me of what I said the night before I left for Ellensburg. If I remember correctly the quote goes, “I’ll be back in a couple months. I’m just going to party for a quarter then move back home.”

A funny thing happened to me my first quarter as a college student, I earned a 4.0. This was the first true academic success I had felt in years. Even at a young age school was a struggle for me. I like to joke with my friends that I am a walking learning disability. Having ADHD and being dyslexic are not a good combination for learning.

In elementary school the teacher’s told my mom that I would always be two grade levels behind. My mother being the strong women she is refused to accept this. Getting caught up to grade level was a major accomplishment at a young age but I began to falter again in high school.

This new found success in college gave me a drive that I had never felt before. I had reached the top and did not want to let it go. I now began the phase in my life of maintaining this success.

This new life did not come without challenges. The tragic passing away of friends, family health concerns, bad relationships, amongst other things plagued me throughout these past four years. It is the times of struggle that you develop your character. Through every dark night there is a brighter day. I will be forever grateful for the challenges that were presented to me at Central. I would not be where I am if I was not able to learn how to overcome the obstacles of life.

From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank STAR for giving me the second chance I needed. For those of you are unfamiliar with STAR, it is a program that allows students a chance to get into college that had life circumstances hold them back. I cannot express my gratitude for what this program does.

To quote my favorite artist, “you can spend minutes, hours, weeks, over-analyzing a situation; trying to put the pieces together, justifying what could’ve, would’ve happened… or you can leave the pieces on the floor and move on.”

Programs like STAR give people the opportunity to leave the pieces on the floor and start a new life. They gave me the chance to find the success I was always destined to have. I stand before you all today a humbled man. I would not trade the last four years of my life for anything. I would like to thank my family, friends, advisors and teachers for all the support throughout my time at Central. I graduate today a proud Wildcat and hope all of your futures shine bright.

I am going to conclude with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson which I feel summarizes this speech perfectly. “What lies behind us, and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies with us.” Thank you.