Waldron, Michigan is the quaintest, little farm town in Michigan to which I have ever been. The downtown consists of a local tavern, a post office, a church and a handful of other buildings. The wide open spaces of the area far outweigh the alleys between buildings and number of houses that have fences. But the distance doesn't hinder the growth and close-knit tendencies of the community.
Growing up, I thought I went to a small school. I graduated with about 110 classmates in my senior class (shout out to Chicago Christian High School's Class of 2011!) and ours was the biggest of the four grades. To offer quite a bit of contrast to my school experiences, Waldron's campus currently educates and nurtures around 230 students (K-12) under ONE roof. This year's graduating class, which consisted of 25 students, was their third largest class of the past two decades. (The first and second largest groups were the Classes of 2008 and 2012 with 36 graduates and 25 graduates, respectively.)
The ceremony lasted over an hour and was made up of speeches by the Superintendent of Waldron Area Schools, José Vera, the class' valedictorian and salutatorian, and former NFL player and current CEO of Shep Inspires LLC, C.L. "Shep" Shepherd, the ceremony's guest speaker. The audience heard some sentimental memories from the students' past four years, as well as motivational, encouraging, and hopeful words for the students' futures. By the end of the ceremony students, parents, and other family members and friends were shedding tears for the accomplishments of their loved ones and peers. (I'll also take a brief moment admit that my eyes welled up a time or two behind the camera.) If that doesn't testify to the community that lies within the town and people of Waldron, I don't know what will.
My time spent in Waldron was filled with relaxation and gave me a fresh perspective of and appreciation for small towns with big communities. Engaging with the students, though our time together was brief, was a treat and I am so excited for all of them as they start the next chapter of their lives. Congratulations to Waldron Area High School's Class of 2016!!