Catholic Central High School Valedictorian Sarah Mattfeld (l.) and Salutatorian Riley Peck.
Catholic Central High School Valedictorian Sarah Mattfeld (l.) and Salutatorian Riley Peck.

By Sarah Mattfeld

Good afternoon and welcome Bishop Scharfenberger, Superintendent of Schools Mr. Virgiglio, administration, CCHS School Board members, teachers, family, friends, and, of course, my fellow graduates. On behalf of the class of 2021, I would like to start by thanking all of the teachers and staff that have contributed countless hours to help us both learn in the classroom and grow as people. I would also like to thank the family members and friends that have encouraged and supported each of us over the course of the last four years. We could not have done it without you!

When I think about our time at Catholic High as the class of 2021, one word clearly comes to mind: adversity. Obviously, the circumstances for half of our time in high school have been less than ideal and our final years were far from what we expected. Life is not always sunshine and rainbows, and the last year-and-a-half has been proof of that; however, when faced with the loss of so many things that we have looked forward to over the years, I am proud of how our class has adapted and found ways to make the most of every situation.

With that being said, when I thought about the years that each of us have spent at Catholic Central High School, I remembered the good times and some of my favorite memories like doing chemistry homework in Mrs. Cavanaugh’s first period English class every single morning, spending time in the gym or on the track with teammates, and some far too intense games of “rooster on the roof” with Cam. As important as school has been, it is these moments that have had the biggest and most memorable impact on me.

I vividly remember my first experience here at Catholic High. I was an awkwardly tall, scared-out-of-my-mind, 12-year-old girl arriving at the gym for my first cross-country practice in August of 2015. Since that day and over the course of my time here, I have dyed my hair seven times, gotten nine piercings, and grown about 51⁄4 inches. While the physical changes have been notable, by far the most important change that I have experienced is that I am no longer a scared 12-year-old, but a confident 18-year-old that younger me would hopefully be proud of. I attribute much of this growth to the lessons that I have learned and the experiences I have shared with the diverse group of students that I have gotten to know here.

When I first transferred here in seventh grade, the only other person that I knew was my twin brother, Jack. Although I was excited, I feared that I wouldn’t fit in or be accepted, but I quickly realized that the various talents and interests of the students here put an emphasis on finding what makes you different and what brings you joy instead of fitting into a typical standard. Each day, I have been exposed to unique individuals with passions ranging from baking, to golf, to sharks, to social justice, and just about everything in between. I have learned a lot from the people around me and am grateful to have shared an environment that allowed each of us to grow and discover the people that we want to be. The relationships that I have made with both students and staff alike, are the greatest things that I will take away from my time spent at Catholic High. In the last four years, I have been given friends that I hope last a lifetime, teachers that have inspired me to learn and to question the world around me, and mentors that have challenged my thinking.

Now, six years after my start at Catholic Central, I am still awkwardly tall, but I am no longer scared out of my mind, instead, through the support and guidance of the many wonderful people I have met here at Catholic High, I am confident that I, and each of my classmates, have been prepared to go out and share our passions and gifts with the rest of the world.

Despite physical distance from one another, the challenges of online learning, and added fear for the health of ourselves and our loved ones, we did it! We have made it to the end of this chapter of our lives together, so congratulations to my fellow members of the Catholic Central Class of 2021 and best of luck to all of you in the future!

Thank you!

‘We have created our own perspective of the world’

By Riley Peck

Good afternoon. I would like to welcome Bishop Scharfenberger, Superintendent Giovanni Virgiglio, CCHS faculty, staff and administration, and parents of the graduating class of 2021.

On my first day at Catholic High, I walked through the doors a complete stranger to the community. I knew a total of six people, had zero classes with most of them, and could barely find my way from the front office to the library. I was beyond nervous to meet my classmates. I had no idea what they would think of me or how they would perceive me, but I’m positive I made a solid impression on everyone when on the second day of high school, in the middle of Mrs. Giuliano’s Earth Science Lab, I dropped my pen on the floor. Reaching over the side of my desk to grab it, I fell over onto the ground, taking the desk down with me. I was quite literally at a low point in that moment, feeling humiliated and worried about being judged. I was faced with an internal question: do I let this obstacle taint my first week of high school or do I get back up and face the desk again? It was a tough decision at the time, but I eventually did pick up my desk. Thankfully, the challenges that high school brought did not always involve desks and cold floors.

Throughout these last few years, I have realized that it is at the times that we feel we are at our lowest, alone and afraid, that we are faced with the question of perspective. How do you see and how will you respond to hardship? Is it an obstacle or an opportunity to succeed? Sitting on the floor, whether literally or symbolically, it can be easy to notice how low you really are, with your problems seemingly bigger and stronger than you, and the rest of the world looking down on you. The beauty of perspective is that it is controlled by the individual. It is easily influenced by internal factors, and each individual has the power to change their perspective. It is easy to focus on the negative aspects of a situation, but it is rewarding to see the positive aspects and push through a challenge. It is easy to sit on the floor, feeling stuck and alone, but it is rewarding to stand up, rely on the love and support of friends and family, and try again.

“What you say and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.” These are the words of Christian author and apologist C.S. Lewis. This quote perfectly embodies the idea of perspective. Your perspective can be instantly transformed through making an effort to stand up and see the world from a new point of view. My classmates and I did not have the traditional high school experience. We have probably had one of the most unique, unprecedented and unsettling of academic careers. We had no other choice but to watch as we were forcefully shoved to the ground this past year, helpless and out of control. To my classmates, what kind of a person are you and what kind of person do you want to be? Did you see this last year as an insurmountable obstacle? Did you see it as a challenge to become the better version of yourself? To the teachers and faculty, did you take this last year as an opportunity to support the students and families that create the Catholic High community? To the parents, did you take advantage of the opportunity to support your children and loved ones, both physically and emotionally? From my perspective, it seemed that my classmates, teachers and family rose to the challenge and made the most of a year that was so far from ordinary. I saw those around me decide to control the only thing they could, their perspective of the situation, and they inspired me to do the same. I made the decision to control what I could, and appreciate the tough lessons that this last year taught me. I am honored to say that the class of 2021 has successfully looked in the eyes of the challenge called “high school,” and rather than be intimidated by its connotations, stereotypes and unprecedented challenges, have enjoyed the little moments of the last four years and made their own memories. We have created our own perspective of the world, and while hardship will always be present in life, we have learned how to face it.

A few weeks ago, I missed a step as I was walking out of the school and, surprise, fell flat on my face, right in front of my friends. This ending to my high school career was strangely similar to its beginning, but despite the embarrassing nature of the situation, I didn’t view it as a challenge this time around. I knew that it was okay for me to fall, to recognize my mistake, and appreciate the moment of being imperfect, with no worries about judgment from those around me. My perspective has been deeply influenced by the community and my personal experience at Catholic High. It has shown me that it is how we view a challenge, and how quickly we make the decision to get back up and try again, that defines us and shapes us into the individuals that we are. I can confidently say that the Catholic Central High School Class of 2021 consists of the kind of people that accept challenges as opportunities to improve, those that get up, stand tall, and work toward their goals every day, refusing to remain trapped on the ground. Congratulations to my classmates, I could not be more proud of you all, and I hope you continue to stand tall each day, especially after you fall to the floor.

Thank you.