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Manteno Salutatorian - Justin McClain
Posted On:
Monday, May 22, 2017
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Bio and Address

Manteno High School announces Justin McClain as the second of our three salutatorians for the class of 2017. Justin is the son of Crystal and John McClain. He has been committed to the music department for four years including being a member of the award winning show choir “Magic”. He created a debate club here at Manteno High School during his sophomore year and continued to grow for the next three. He is proud to have served his class as President for 4 years and served as student council president during his senior year. This 2017 Illinois State Scholar has selected to study International Health at Valparaiso University this fall.


Thank you for that introduction Mr. Schnitzler. It has been my dream to speak at graduation since eighth-grade promotion four years ago when I was sitting in the audience listening to Leah Selk give her speech. For some reason, I have always had this strange sense of competition with her that can be traced back to Mrs. Friddle’s class in fourth-grade, and I was definitely jealous of her giving that speech in front of our class. Now it is time to enter the stereotypical quote into my graduation speech; C.S. Lewis once said “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different?” Today, that sense of competition is gone, I like to think she is one of my friends (hopefully she can confirm that right now), and I wish Leah could be up here delivering a speech with me, because I know with the both of us, our speech would blow minds and go viral. If there is one thing that I will take away from my four years in the English department, it is that context is key, so before any final high school rumors can spread, everything I just said, was not some strange way of flirting – it was merely context and me explaining how elated I am to finally speak to you all right now.

Most of you are probably waiting for this cookie cutter, second of four speeches delivered by students to be over, but I am pleased to share with you that I am not known for giving speeches that are necessarily considered predictable. You are going to hear songs of thanks and congratulations from everyone today – and while I, too, would like to sincerely thank all who have made today possible for my classmates and myself and say congratulations to those who, like me, are in glorified dresses today, that will not be the remainder of my five minutes up here in the spotlight. I wish to talk about why each person in the Class of 2017 deserves to be at this podium and not only four students who just so happened to have taken the most weighted classes and receive A’s in them.

The obvious reason is we have all proven to be successful and are graduating today. We have satisfied the requirements of 4 years of English, 3 years of math and science, 2 years of social studies, and various other classes throughout these past four years. All of us have passed said classes. Granted, some of us may have barely squeaked by when looking at a grade in a class that miraculously hung on by a few points, while others of us may have a spotless transcript, but the important thing is that we all have passed, and everyone deserves to be recognized for that, not just some of us who were insane enough to take every AP class offered and then some.

Secondly, we all have grown in character and gained integrity while walking the halls of Manteno High School. There is not a single person, graduate or guest, in this entire sauna that we call a gym who can honestly say high school did not change them. We have taken a step toward discovering ourselves and what we want to do with our lives. For us graduating today, that may include the great honor of defending our country in the military, others may be going straight into the workforce, and some of us might travel the world to help solve global crises. Big or small, whatever it is that you have planned, it deserves to be heard and read off in an introduction of yours at this podium.

We also all have made memories that will last a lifetime. Getting first at a WYSE or Academic Team competition, showcasing artwork on Main Street in a town we call home, winning a national show choir competition, going to state for sports, dancing the night away at homecoming or prom, being the first school to hold an It’s Our Time event, running a business that was recognized in our nation’s capital, and making memes of a teacher we’ve had are just some of the memories that we, the Class of 2017, have made. Each one of them comes with a story that deserves to be told in all its glory by the people who hold those memories, not just listed off by someone who heard about them.

Finally, as the Class of 2017, we share one more aspect. We all owe these aforementioned things to the staff at Manteno. Without them, there would not be school dances or after parties where memories are made, there would not be quesadilla or pizza days to bring joy to the monotonous days, there would not be a reason to have 23 teenagers in the same room for just under an hour and a half where friendships are forged and you learn how to read lips from across the room, and there would not be janitors that everyone can come together and love. Each of us deserves to be humbled by celebrating and giving thanks to those who paved the way for us throughout our schooling careers in front of everyone today and not just four out of the 162 students the staff members here at Manteno High School have impacted and are about to cross the stage.

When Mr. Schnitzler approached me to give a speech, he made it very clear that I had a max of five minutes, and after practicing this speech a few times on my own, I know that I am pushing the limit, so allow me to wrap it up. There are many more things that bind us together than split us apart - I hope that message got across during this speech. We, the Class of 2017, have certainly left our mark on the school in all the possible categories: the fine arts, sports, and academics, and, I am not trying to brag, but it will be hard for the classes below us to fill our shoes. I told the freshmen in a speech I delivered at the beginning of the year that I am proud to call MHS my high school, and, while it is still true now, with the things that we are about to go out and accomplish in the future, I am also confident that MHS will be proud to call us, the Class of 2017, alumni.

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