DAYTONA BEACH -- Valedictorian Ericka Kirkpatrick reminded her 399 classmates they came into the world two decades ago with the birth of the Internet. With its growth, they too can grow and make a difference in the lives of so many.
"Think about this: Eighteen years ago, we came into this world," she said, "Likewise, the Internet was launched almost 18 years ago."
Kirkpatrick reminded her classmates how the Internet has grown from a small tool for scientific research to a multibillion global entity that helps businesses to thrive and countless other benefits, including helping charities.
Like, the Internet, she said she and her classmates have grown "from saying our ABC's to writing research papers; from counting to 10 to doing math with letters."
Kirkpatrick reminded her classmates that after receiving their diplomas, they will go their separate ways as they make their way in the world.
This is where she stepped up to the plate as their academic leader, saying, "My advice to you, Class of 2011: 'Take every possible opportunity that comes your way. Make a difference in this world in your unique way. Every activity in this world has its effect. Make yours count.' "
Kirkpatrick, who is attending the University of Florida with the goal of becoming a doctor, and was the recipient of thousands of dollars in scholarships, including one for $50,000, told her classmates she's reminded of the old saying that it doesn't matter where you come from, but where you are going.
"The person who grew up disadvantaged and the person who grew up with all of the advantages, are the same person in the academic world," she said of the public education received and how it positions them moving forward.
With the knowledge attained, Kirkpatrick encouraged her classmates to "Gain achievements, accomplish goals and make a difference. Show the love that you believe in yourself, your dreams and your future. With that belief, we can truly make a difference that transforms the world."
And just like that she offered a two-word directive to applause: "Good luck."
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