A wave of emotions filled the class of 2016 as they sang their school song for the last time at Elkin High’s graduation Friday evening before stepping out into the real world.
After the students came out onto the field of the football stadium to “Pomp and Circumstance,” the Elkin JROTC performed a presentation of colors followed by the Pledge of Allegiance led by Jillian Graham Lewis. The top 10 percent seniors of the class of 2016 got together to sing “The Star Spangled Banner” and an invocation was given by Brendan Harrison Spencer.
“This evening we take our final steps as high-schoolers and our first steps into what’s to come,” Madeline Claire Barron said in a welcome.
“It’s our final Friday all together, and we’re anxious and excited as we look forward to what lies ahead. I’m so proud and so honored to be a part of one of the greatest classes to ever graduate from EHS. You can call us the GOAT class. By the way, GOAT stands for ‘Greatest of all Time.’ We’ve made it through every Elk time, every make-up day, every case of senioritis so we can join together today and move forward into futures filled with success, happiness and a satisfactory sense of accomplishment.”
Allegra and Annika Ramazani Fiets recognized special guests and gave thanks to the parents, teachers and staff of Elkin High School. “As we celebrate the accomplishments of our class, it is important that we recognize those of you that have helped us along our journey,” said Allegra and Annika Fiets.
“Congratulations, seniors,” said principal Joel Hoyle. “Tonight is a culmination of 13 years of your educational life. It is a special night, and it calls for celebration. You’ve been waiting on and looking forward to tonight for a very long time and soon you will be looking back and saying, ‘Where has it all gone?’
“You’re a special class. I’ve told you that numerous times over the past four years. The Class of 2016 will always be special to me as we began our careers at Elkin High School at the same time. I have truly enjoyed getting to know you and watching you grow over the past four years.”
Ally Renee Gentry recited a poem she wrote in dedication to her class.
“It’s hard to know what to say to my classmates, to the people that I built my life around, to the people who learned to walk with me, who are now preparing to walk across the stage with me, who are about to step out towards something they can’t see.
“Well, Class of 2016, I must firstly say thank you for giving me a foundation, one of love, memories, talks and adventures, so that one day I’ll be able to look back and think. I’ll think of the times when the work seemed to be too much, of when I stepped out of my comfort zone, of when I made new connections with amazing people, of when I wish the present away, and of when I realize that I miss these High School Days. I hope you learn to love the person that you are today and I hope you catch up to the person that you’re racing to be.”
Palmer Anne Duncan reminded her fellow classmates that “the best is yet to come.”
“Today represents more than a piece of paper. It represents a new beginning, not a final destination. How many people in the audience this evening would say these are the best times of our lives? You know that the good times don’t stop here. We move on and keep making the best times and adventures. We create them. We work for them, making sure that the best times are satisfying.
“We will build upon the knowledge we gained here at Elkin High School. Our futures can and will surpass the things we have experienced here in our pasts. The experiences that we’ve had here are great ones but we can’t relive them. Rather, we should use them as stepping stones. There’s a wealth of living for us to do and there are many great possibilities ahead of us. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Elkin High School to just be the best time of my life. I want it to be the beginning of a great adventure.”
Kennedy Routh Freeman thanks her friends, family, and teachers for standing by her and her fellow classmates.
“There’s no doubt in our mind that our journeys to this moment would not have been possible without some very stressful individuals that deserve all the gratitude in the world. These are the relationships created for a lifetime. Our journey through life so far has included some of the most influential relationships we will ever be a part of, but this is only the beginning. Whether these relationships prefer reasons, a season or a lifetime, we will carry the lessons we’ve learned from them for the rest of our lives.”
Tyler Curtis Eaton spoke about diversity.
“In the mid-19th century, Charles Darwin engaged himself in the intense study of finches, spending that time in the Galapagos Islands. Similar to biologists expectations of specimens, groups of people are categorized within the boundaries established by society, but I believe we are more than any finches in any classification. It’s a bit funny to think about. Here I am preaching individuality to a group of small-town students who are all wearing matching gowns,” said Eaton.
“But if you look down, seniors, you may see an assortment of chords or maybe just your gown. I’m not glorifying students with the most stuff around their neck. I’m simply admiring the unity that derives from diversity. This is what separates us from Darwin’s finches. We all have our different talents, personalities, longings, and abilities underneath those caps and gowns. Looking at you there’s a sea of dark blue, but when I focus in I see individual characters. You are scholars and workers, patriots and rebels, and artists and athletes. Despite how scared and crazy we all may be, this evening, we’re all about to be Elkin High School graduates.”
Madison Katherine Shoemaker reminded everybody that it was OK to take chances.
“Here’s how it always seems to go. You’re buddies dare you to jump. You don’t want to jump because it’s annoying to get cold and wet. They jump. They scream and laugh and shout and talk about how alive they feel and despite losing their breath in how insane it was. You didn’t jump.
“Ten minutes later, they’ve warmed up and they’re all the same temperature. The difference? They have a memory and an accomplishment.
“It is the same in these little moments as it is in the decisions that change our lives. Despite the past moments in which we’ve haven’t jumped or jumped too far, what matters now is every decision we have ahead of us. We are defined by the moments when we jump, when it’s scary and unknown and maybe even a little risky, but we take a deep breath and we go with it. This is one of those defining moments. So grab my hand and let’s jump.”
As the diplomas were handed out, the Elkin High Chamber Singers, directed by Tonya Smith, sang “Homeward Bound.” Carolyn Alia Blackburn gave a final farewell and led the class in one final singing of their school song. Austin Christoper Coley closed the ceremony with a benediction.
As the class stepped into the next chapter of their lives, Hoyle left them with this advice.
“As you reflect back on your time in high school, I want you to think about a quote I once heard from a football coach: the windshield is much bigger than the rear-view mirror. You’ve accomplished so much and have many things to be proud. It’s OK to look back, reflect and enjoy the many memories of high school, but each one of you have so much more to accomplish. The best for the class of 2016 is still yet to come. And one more time, and you’ve heard me say it many times, it’s a great day to be a Buckin’ Elk.”
Troy Brooks may be reached at 336-258-4058.