Now is not the time to hold back, according to Class of 2009 valedictorian Taylor Gill.

Now is not the time to hold back, according to Class of 2009 valedictorian Taylor Gill.

Gill shared the thought with 480 of her Davidson High School classmates on May 22 shortly before they crossed the stage at Jerome Schottenstein Center to pick up diplomas.

"More than ever before, we must embrace the change we are being offered," said Gill.

She and salutatorian Olla Nayal looked back on the past, but their focus is on the future.

"Teachers in the math lab were always poised to help us with the tricky problems we often found in our homework assignments, and we could certainly expect to leave with an essay generously covered in corrections from the English lab," said Nayal.

Gill had flashbacks to phenomenal plays and concerts, exciting games, long papers, all-night study sessions for "impossible tests," and fire drills in the freezing cold.

As she reflected, she found herself drifting further and further back in time to awkward dances at the middle school, learning how to use a locker in the sixth grade, recess and field trips in elementary school and finger-painting and nap time at preschool.

"Sometimes we learned just as much from each other, through sharing notes between classes and staying up together at late-night cram sessions," said Nayal. "But our learning experiences at this school go beyond the lectures, notes and homework. We have gained understanding that cannot be found in any textbook."

Gill said their lives have been full of experiences and yet there is always room for more.

"Now we will be exposed to new forces of influence," she said.

The community of Hilliard has been the definition of "home" for the graduates, according to Gill.

Next fall, she said, the graduates will be exposed to new cultures, people and ideas which may change their view of the world, if they allow it.

"Instead of our fellow students' pictures defining our concept of art, we can let a skilled painter from California in the room down the hall show us a new way to view the term 'art,'" she said. "Instead of reading the books recommended by our teachers, we can read new and obscure works that expand our definition of literature. Instead of knowing 'culture' as a presentation given for 25 minutes in focus, we can experience new cultures by living them ourselves. These are just a few of the ways in which our perception of what is normal can change next year."

Superintendent Dale McVey urged the seniors to have passion, to understand the importance of relationships and to continue to make a difference.

"Work hard to make a difference and give back to society," he said.

Making the world a better place and leaving a positive impact were the recommendations he offered while he looked out over the crowd of seniors, faculty, parents and friends.

Gill was in agreement as she explained that many opportunities will be presented and it is up to the individuals to explore all that they can.

Hidden passions, she said, may be found in mild interests.

"We must take challenges and risks, and we must not be afraid to fail," she said. "Shape your life the way you want it to be - there is still time to define who you are."

A quote from Kermit the Frog's song, "The Rainbow Connection," summed up what Gill was trying to tell her classmates.

"Life's like a movie; write your own ending," she said. "Keep believing, keep pretending, we've done just what we've set out to do, thanks to the lovers, the dreamers and you!"