Graduating Seniors ‘walking the parking lot’

Pam Dudding-Burch
Contributing writer

Seniors celebrating their graduation by yelling hoots, screaming cheers and throwing their caps into the air.

As forty-two young men and women stood outside the double doors of the auditorium waiting for their ‘last walk’ as a high school student, many emotions seemed to be captured in their eyes. “I can’t believe we made it!” several said as they appeared to be wondering why time was going so slow at the moment. “This is it y’all!” one shouted from the back of the line.

Parents, family members and friends gathered at Craig County High School on Friday, May 26 for the Commencement Ceremony for the graduating 2017 Senior Class. Cell phones and cameras were raised high as one by one they walked into the auditorium to the familiar processional music.

A blend of smiles and tears filled the faces of the room. An atmosphere of pride, love and sheer joy seemed to be created by the ones attending. Olivia Garman, Class President, led the Pledge of Allegiance. Three other seniors also gave speeches.

Hannah Lipes shared that she believed she and her classmates were surrounded by people who cared and wanted them to succeed. “There is nothing you can’t accomplish,” she said. “Every one of you are different but you still have something in common,” she added. “You all have the potential to be successful and achieve what you set your heart to…so, never settle for anything less than you deserve.”

Seth Helm shared that their future lives were going to be filled with ‘change’- work, paths of life and a new fight for what their future held. “Change is like traveling and is sometimes difficult to control,” he said. “How we react to change is the most important.” Helm added that the most important part of ‘change’ is the ability to bounce back when going through a tougher time of change.

“I would like to thank everyone who came out tonight to support the Class of 2017 as we take our first steps into the real world,” Olivia Menezes, Class Valedictorian said. “Graduates, we made it!”

While sharing her thoughts about how they all started together four years ago, she added “We use to be little and immature and now we are bigger and still immature.” Her classmates laughed with her. She said she would like to give her speech, but she interrupted herself and said, “But first, let’s take a selfie!” Classmates rose quickly to their feet to do just that.

Her words that followed seemed to not only touch but grip the spirit of her classmates but the audience as well, as the background chatter quickly hushed. Menezes spoke of their life being like a walk in their parking lot at the school, which has major potholes in it.

“This is no ordinary parking lot as it is filled with holes of varied sizes and shapes!” she exclaimed as many laughed, knowing its condition. “But this is our parking lot!”

“As we discover our walk in life, we start to notice that our walk isn’t as smooth as it use to be and that there are a lot of pot holes,” she said. “And we fall down but we then learn how to get up and stand on our own two feet.”

She added that as much as one tries to avoid those patches of pot holes, that sometimes you fall again….and again but that one learns from each incident, continuing to get up once more, refusing to give up and stay down, but rising again and becoming a little smarter every time.

“Don’t ever be afraid of what lies ahead!” she exclaimed sharing that one should look at each bump or patch as an opportunity to improve oneself. “Be fearless and true to yourself as you continue your walk through the parking lot.” When Menezes finished, the loud cheers were a vivid show of their heartfelt acceptance and appreciation.

The special speaker chosen for the graduating class was Cathy Horn a former Elementary School teacher of Craig. She shared that she was so happy to be able to come back to ‘a place so wonderful and dear to my heart!’

She explained to the graduating class that they were facing a new avenue of life, like packing a suitcase with treasures. Whether from elementary school, middle or high school they would look at things that they would want to take with them on their journey. “Just like when you started reading and learned quickly that you can’t judge a book by its cover, I encourage you to take time to look inside as you can apply this to people as well.”

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She added, “As your parents let you grow in these latter years to make your own choices and discover rewards and consequences, you also discovered your own independence.” Horn suggested for them to always ‘ponder their future’. She concluded with, “Always grow into the best version of yourself.” She spoke of a poem, ‘The Voice’ that whispers inside of each of them daily, which will help to guide them along life’s path. “What is right for you?… just listen to, the voice that is inside.”

The perfect attendance award was presented to Maddy Jones. “She loves school!” one person shared with a smile. The top five students with the highest GPAs were also announced; Fifth – Savannah Looney, Fourth Morgan Caldwell, Third- Hannah Lipes, Second – Seth Helm and First – Olivia Menezes.

Many scholarships were awarded to the graduating seniors. (Next week’s issue will have these listed.) And then came the special moment the students had been waiting for, the confirmation from Superintendent Jeanette Warwick. Warwick shared that she was proud of each and every one of the students and their accomplishments. As the graduating seniors moved their tassels to the opposite side of their graduating caps, and were pronounced ‘graduates’, the auditorium was saturated with shouts of glee as well as a cascade of caps that had been thrown into the air, now coming back down to them. “We did it!” seemed to be the shout that could be hear the loudest.

As the recessional music played, and the graduating senior class walked out one by one, you could see smiles that spread a ‘country mile’ as well as tears that spoke a thousand words on their faces. Once out of sight of the audience, hugs were of abundance to one another as well as strong handshakes and confirmations that they would ‘always stay in touch’.

Cell phones appeared from everywhere as selfies were being taken around every corner. “We have graduated!” one shouted as all seemed to join in the shouts of glee. As family members and friends exited, they joined up with their graduating senior for more pictures, hugs, tears and encouraging comments.

Kenny Davis, the school’s Police attendee, wrote a note to ‘his kids’ on Facebook. He had been writing in the their yearbooks and said that it hit him that he had the privilege of watching another group grow up. “Sixteen years and counting and I would not trade one year,” he said.

Davis added that he wouldn’t deny that there had been some frustrating times, but he added that he also got the honor of getting to ‘know’ them, their dreams, hopes and fears. “I often am given the opportunity to share my ‘wisdom’ with them and hope that it helps.” he added. “On a personal note, I want to encourage my ‘kids’ to stay strong, stay true and live honorable lives that reflect integrity, as I love you guys!”

It was 30 minutes since the graduating seniors had walked their steps into the new world, but few seemed to have left as the ‘parking lot’ was still filled with everyone taking pictures, chattering and giving hugs.

As Menezes shared, “Everyone leaving had to walk across ‘that parking lot filled with it’s different pot hole designs.” One would have to wonder how many people, as they walked around those holes, were triggered by her words of wisdom “that every bump you hit or hole you fall into is another opportunity to grow in life and make the best of each incident.”

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