The Student News Site of San Luis Obispo High School




The Student News Site of San Luis Obispo High School



Each Student Has the Power to Choose: 2023 SLOHS Graduates Can Shape Their Own Path and Impact the World


Choices Choices Choices. School’s out and here comes the imbalance of adulting! Graphic Courtesy of 2023 Graduate Owen Blackwell.

2023 SLOHS Graduate and Design Editor Owen Blackwell shares this personal narrative encouraging students to examine the power of their choices and the impact they can have on themselves and others. Originally written for the speaker at large at graduation, it was not chosen, and is now being published here. 

Here is the Speech in its entirety:

“My senior year began with a bang, quite literally, as a car accident while I was biking home from work sent me to the hospital and left me in bed for a month, and with uncertainty about being able to compete in cross country. I started school with a walker. Miraculously, I made a full recovery and was able to start training and competing halfway through the trimester. 

No, I didn’t end up making any prs this year, nor did I run any varsity races, but the community of teammates was more valuable than any medal. We were each other’s cheerleaders and were always there for one another. When I pushed myself too hard and threw up on Madonna, they made sure I was all right and helped me get back. We hyped each other up before races and motivated each other to give it our all. They believed in me when I doubted myself.

I started cross country like a bent bicycle tire, hobbling around. Over the course of the season, my coaches straightened me out, and my family and teammates pumped me back up, and by the end of the season, I could roll again. With the support and encouragement of my family, my team, and my coaches, I had lots of fun and consistently improved my times throughout the season. But my story isn’t unique.

There are countless students out there surrounded by individuals who uplift and empower them, and who cheer them on to new heights. Every team, every class, and every community has these people. 

Let’s take a moment to reflect. Think of the friends, teachers, and coaches who molded you, who fortified your spirit, and who pushed you forward. Make sure you thank them, send them a letter, get them a gift, and let them know how they impacted you. A little handwritten and heartfelt thank you can make a person’s day.

Each student in this crowd should not only thank those people but be those people. As we leave high school, let’s do more than not forget ’em. Let’s choose to carry their contagious spirit with us. 

Sometimes, as young people in a confusing and far too often unkind world, we forget that we all possess the power of choice. As we head into the next chapter of life, we are presented with a unique opportunity: the ability to redefine ourselves. Use the people in your life who have lifted you up as the blueprint for who you want to be 

The choices we have made in high school, whether bad or good, will not define us anymore. We will be moving on to new schools, new jobs, and new friends. 

They aren’t going to know if you were kind or unkind in high school if you lifted others up or you pushed them down. You can make the choice to be a kinder, more thoughtful, more patient person. You can choose to be optimistic, encouraging, and welcoming. You can choose to be better. 

When life hurls its relentless obstacles at the faces of those around us, we can make the choice to be like those heroes who stood by us and who propelled us through our own dark times. Be the friend who offers to study with you before the test. Be the teammate who cheers everyone else on. Be the teacher who asks you about your day and actually wants to know. 

You have a choice as you leave high school, to make yourself who you want to be. Let’s choose to be that beacon of hope and resilience for the people we encounter on our own journeys. In choosing to lift others up, we can unleash the power to change the lives of those around us. 

As we move on from high school all of us have the choice to try new things.

I am choosing to go to Chile next year. A country on different continent, a different hemisphere, and a different culture and language. 

My choice is extreme, but I want to encourage my fellow graduating seniors to choose to experience new things big and small. Whether that is choosing to play intramural flag football, choosing to take a performing arts elective, or choosing to do a road trip over summer vacation. Choosing to try new things can open you up to possibilities you never knew about, cause you to learn new things about yourself and the world around you, and make new friends. While choosing to do something new can be scary, I’ve found that the best parts of my high school experience came from choosing something new. I never played school sports until I joined cross country in Junior year, I’ve made amazing memories and friends and had fun in an entirely new way. I joined the newspaper on a whim, since then Journalism Class has often been the best part of my day. Just a handful of months ago I decided to learn the ukulele, yesterday I performed for all of you at the Senior Showcase. Choosing to try new things pays off time and time again. 

The power to choose is instilled in each and every one of us, and as we move on from high school to college, careers, and more, each of you will be presented with choices. You can choose to be kind or unkind, thoughtful or reactionary, to try new things, or stay in your comfort zone. We all have the power to choose.

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  • Z

    Zach RoperJun 9, 2023 at 1:25 pm

    Awesome article/speech Owen! This is such an important message for everyone, young and old alike. I’m thankful I got to know you here at SLO High and I look forward to following your adventures in the Southern Hemisphere! all the best to you man