YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – As millions of graduates take stages across the country and in the Valley, one Chaney High School student sees it as more than just getting a diploma. He turned despair into desire and graduated valedictorian, all while remembering loved ones he’d lost just months ago.
As Valar Blair, Jr. gave his valedictorian speech on Thursday, there were special people on his mind.
“My sister told me to never give up on my goals and to always follow my dreams,” he said.
His sister, Valarcia, was shot and killed in November, along with his 3-month-old nephew and brother, Edward, on Youngstown’s south side.
“It was rough, it was really rough,” Valar said. “I really wanted to just quit everything but I know that’s something that they wouldn’t want me to do.”
Even though Valar was on the edge of giving up, he knew he had to push forward for the family he lost.
“You’ve just gotta keep going, you’ve gotta keep pushing,” he said.
In his speech, Valar said his sister was like a second mother and he wouldn’t be here without her, so his hard work was for them.
“Follow your path, don’t try to follow nobody else’s. Stay on your own path, stay dedicated. You’ve gotta work hard.”
The past eight months haven’t been easy for Valar’s mother, Elizabeth, either but she said this day changed everything after what they’ve been through.
“I mean, this right here made me realize I did my job as a mom. I am so proud of my son.”
Elizabeth called Valar an example to other kids from any background because he is proof that you can be strong. She knows their family is proudly looking down on him.
“You’ve gotta do it for them. Do it for yourself, most of all, but you do it for them, too,” Elizabeth said.
The message Valar shared with his fellow classmates is one he wants to share with everyone.
“For real, from the bottom of my heart, it’s going to be rough, it’s gonna be real rough but I know deep down inside, there’s a part in your heart that don’t want you to give up,” he said.
Valar will be attending Youngstown State University to study engineering and wants to be the best engineer he can be. He says why do something if you don’t want to be the best at it?