2019 Valedictorian Speech - “Home”

Batesburg-Leesville, South Carolina. This place means so many different things for different people. Some see us for the Poultry Festival, a place where you can eat your chicken on a stick and enjoy some nice music while watching the fireworks on a warm, May night. Some see us for the delicious food of Shealy’s and their seemingly endless buffet, but who can really blame them, if we’re being honest! Some see our State Championship wins and the incredible athletics we have. Regardless of how others see Batesburg-Leesville, I see it as my home.

I moved to Batesburg-Leesville when I was going into my seventh grade year. I was so incredibly nervous. I grew up in a town much like Lexington, and had been going to school with the same kids for my whole life. When I walked into the doors of BLMS, my hands were sweaty and shaking, but I immediately felt at home. Not once did I ever feel like “the new girl,” and although we were all awkward almost-teenagers, things felt right.

In my sophomore year of high school, I, along with 21 of my classmates, began a program called e21. Through this program, we were offered the opportunity to take dual-enrollment classes through Midlands Technical College, and potentially graduate with an Associates degree. Of course our parents signed us up quicker than we could say yes, because who doesn’t love free college? However, we quickly realized that college actually was more difficult than high school and this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. As we progressed through our three years in the program, all the late-night group texts and long hours of Coach Thomas talking our ears off about the British Royal Family lineage bonded us in an unexpected way. Some left the program along the way, but this experience made us a family.

Toward the end of my Sophomore year, my family was hit with some hard news. My dad had been diagnosed with cancer and the extensity and cost of treatment were going to be high. We started a GoFundMe and began sharing our story on social media, not expecting much out of it. However, we were astonished to have nearly $14,000 in donations and many more offers of help, food and support in our time of need. When my dad passed away in January of 2018, we were once again flooded with support from members of the community and the school in more ways than I thought possible.

I make these points to say this: I may not have lived in Batesburg-Leesville my whole life. I may not live here in the future. But if there is one thing that the past six years in this town have taught me, its that home is not a place. Home is a feeling. There is a quote by an unknown author that states “Home is where love resides, memories are created, friends and family belong, and laughter never ends.” Batesburg-Leesville may not always be where I live, but it will forever and always be my home.

As we go our separate ways, I would like to leave you with a couple of things. First, I would like to challenge you to find your true home. Whether this be in a person, a place, or a time in your life, find something in which you feel love, laughter and happiness. Second, I ask that you cherish the home you have been given, here in Batesburg-Leesville. Never forget the people, and place, that made you who you are today. Never forget the nights spent in the Pit, cheering on our favorite team and the Sonic or Waffle House trips that were sure to follow. Never forget the friends who had your back through that seemingly-impossible breakup, or who let you copy their homework when you had no time to finish it yourself. Some memories may fade, but never lose sight of where you came from.

With all of that being said, I would like to say thank you to the faculty and students of BLHS, the members of our community, and the class of 2019 for making the past 6 years together some of the best of my life. Wherever our futures may take us, I will always consider you my family and I wish you luck on your future endeavors. We made it!