There are many ways to refer to a high school graduation. To many, it’s considered the first day of the rest of their life.
Those who spoke to the Surry Central High School Class of 2016 would certainly agree with that, with both Principal Ceila Hodges and Student Body President Hugh Atkinson frequently referring to the future in the speeches they gave to the class prior to receiving their diplomas.
A total of 195 seniors walked across the stage to receive their diplomas during Friday’s commencement exercises. According to Hodges, the class of ‘16 completed its time at Central with a cumulative GPA of 3.12, and 62 percent of the graduates will be continuing their education during the next academic year, with an additional 5 percent planning to serve their country in the U.S. Armed Forces. The class has received more than $2 million in scholarship monies.
The principal said that she had fond memories of this graduating class, including some made just last week, in a seniors-only event called “Final Flight” at the football stadium. She talked about how she saw them play a game of soccer, watch “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” under the stars, and enjoy a water slide, among other activities. She told the graduates that she hoped that it would only the the final flight of their time at the school.
“I hope you have many more flights in your future,” she said, then reminded them of what it said in their senior class yearbook: “Make your mark in all you do.”
After Hodges spoke, both Senior Class President Madeline Coe and Atkinson had their opportunity to speak to their fellow graduates-to-be. In between the two speeches from the class leaders, the Surry Central Advanced Mixed Chorus, including several of the graduates making their final performance with the choir, performed the song “And Wherever You Go.” Later in the ceremony, it was revealed that Coe and Atkinson had arranged to film the entire commencement exercise, and that they would be providing a copy of it to each of their classmates as a graduation gift.
In Atkinson’s speech, he cited a quote given by Sir Winston Churchill after the British had turned back the high-water mark of the German campaign in Africa, defeating them at the Second Battle of El Alamein. When asked about the victory, he stated that “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” As Churchill did that day, Atkinson said that he classmates “should always be looking forward…this is the last chapter before the end of the beginning of our lives.”
He used his closing to lead into the next segment of the evening, stating that “I’m excited, and I sincerely hope that you are too. We have had the time of our lives.”
With that, several of the graduates came on stage and performed the 2010 Tyrone Wells song “Time of Our Lives.”
As each graduate had their name called and received their diploma, they received a hand-written note from a member of the faculty and a golden rose, a reminder that they will always be Surry Central Golden Eagles.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.