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West Craven Valedictorian expresses thoughts on final day

West Craven High School is excited to introduce our valedictorian and salutatorian for the 2019-2020 school year. Each of these students has been an active member of the school and the local community. We know these two top performing Eagles will soar in their future endeavors and we wish them the best as they enter college this fall.

 The 2019 – 2020 West Craven High School valedictorian is a young man who is truly driven by his desire to improve the world around him. He lists among his proudest accomplishments completing the EMT classes and certification because it has given him the opportunity to help others at the worst time of their lives and even to save the lives of some.

 In addition to spending time volunteering as an EMT, he serves as a Senior Patrol Leader in the Boy Scouts, a youth instructor for the American Taekwondo Association, and is a leader-in-training for 4-H. During his time at West Craven High, he was a part of Skills USA, and a member of both the National Technical Honor Society and National Honor Society.

 He has achieved a weighted GPA of 4.4828. He plans to pursue a degree in Biomedical Engineering at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and later practice as a physician or a biophysicist.

 His proud parents are Robert Gillen and Aimee Green. West Craven High is excited to present to you our valedictorian, Brandon Gillen and to share his graduation speech.

  Good morning Class of 2020. The last four years have taught me that life is full of challenges. Recent events have confirmed that no one is free of such burdens. Adversity comes in many forms. Natural disasters, plagues, and our own aspirations weigh heavy on us. Sometimes it can be difficult to pursue your dreams with strife around every corner.

 While these difficulties are very real, Winston Churchill once said, "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." As we approach this next step in our lives, we must have the right attitude to succeed. If you cause a problem, learn from it. If you face a problem, conquer it. When you solve a problem, celebrate it.

 As my class knows, "Ride or Fly" is our school motto. There are many interpretations of this statement. To me, this motto says we have the choice of mediocrity or accomplishment. To ride is to let destiny and others take you where they are going, but to fly is to fight and allow yourself to take you where you want to go. To fly, one must be prepared to perform exceptional feats and have the drive to always go beyond a given standard.

 That is to say, our endeavors are not in vain. My father recently told me that, while we are younger, we should live like no one wants to, so when we are older, we can live as no one can. As we aim to fly, our efforts can take us to our goals. As we use our challenges to build us up, we become better people. We have endured and will endure much more hardship regardless of our decisions. Let's continue to make sure they mean something beyond high school. 

 I'd like to thank some of the people who have continuously helped me through my challenges. To my knowledgeable and passionate teachers, to the administrators that care, and most importantly, to my parents. Thank you for helping me get this far and for giving me the tools to go farther. 

 Congratulations Eagles. Let’s use all that we’ve learned to make the most of our journey into the world. – Brandon Gillen, West Craven High Valedictorian 2020