More than 320 members of the Henry County High School Class of 2013 were encouraged to soak up the moment, choose wisely for the future and to not be afraid to go after their dreams.
Rain had threatened the ceremonies at Patriot Stadium all day Friday, but about 6:45 p.m. the last few sprinkles fell and workers hastily dried the rows of red chairs lined up on the green grass. Umbrellas of various hues and sizes began to gradually disappear and by 7:30 were all but forgotten when the long line of red-robed and mortar-board bedecked seniors wound its way down the hill and into the stadium as the HCHS Patriot Band played Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance.”
The HCHS Alma Mater and another song were presented by the Madrigals and then the speeches began.
Natalie Applebaum, class valedictorian, quoted Spanish artist Salvador Dali: “Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.”
“We have gained the intelligence we need in order to take the next steps in life, and now it is up to us to leap off the cliff and fly,” she said.
The second point in the quote was ambition.
“Ambition is a strange word,” Applebaum said, “and at times can have a negative connotation.
“But when it comes down to it,” she said, “ambition is a mixture of motivation, determination and desire to ultimately achieve a goal.”
The top 2013 graduate then warned about failure.
“Finally, remember, before success may come failure. Do not be afraid to go after your dreams,” she said.
“Like school, life is what you make of it. So be intelligent, be ambitious, dream big, aim high, and expect no less than you deserve,” Applebaum concluded.
“While it is usually a good idea to seek some counsel from experienced sources, such as your parents,” Sarah Cathey, salutatorian, said, “we must remember that our ability to decide for ourselves is not something to be wasted.
“When you make important decisions,” she said, “keep in mind that what worked for someone else may not be the best advice in your specific situation.
“You get a say in your future; choose wisely,” Cathey reminded her classmates.
Michelle Culley, honorable mention in the class, recited a poem written by fellow classmate Amber Upton:
Tell me about the hidden dreams, And all the things that lie between.
To pass the time along the way, Sing me a song from the older days.
Through the years what made you blush? Upon whom did you have a secret crush?
To different paths we soon will part, For one last moment, share your heart.
“Though our days are numbered, it is up to us to determine whether we will rise to the occasion or hide away from reality,” Culley added.
“Soak up this moment, for this is the last time we will all be together,” she concluded.
Eliza Griffey, senior class president, in her opening remarks, said she and most of her classmates were so ready to graduate and move on to bigger and better things that “I feel as if I didn’t appreciate the present as much as I should have.”
She then challenged all of her classmates to put an end to always looking back or gazing ahead.
“There are two days in every week about which we should not worry — two days which should be kept free from fear and apprehension,” Griffey said.
“One of those days is yesterday and the other is tomorrow. This leaves only one day — today,” she said, “and anyone can fight the battles of just one day.
“It is when you and I add the burdens of those two worries, yesterday and tomorrow, that we break down.
“Let us therefore live one day at a time,” Griffey concluded.
Lennies McFerren, HCHS principal, presented the graduates and as each came across the stage, they were given their diplomas by Tom Beasley, Henry County Board of Education chairman, and Sam Miles, director of schools.
Allie Wiles, student council president, ended the ceremonies after all had received their diplomas.
“I was asked to name the one most important thing I have learned in my high school career,” she said, “and I finally came to one simple answer: ‘appreciation.’
“I have learned to appreciate all the hard work, the time and the sacrifices that our teachers and families have made to help get us here tonight and earn the right to receive a diploma.
“Your reputation is temporary, but your character is timeless,” she concluded.
McFerren then presented the Class of 2013 as having graduated and more than 320 red mortarboards flew high in the air.
Almost the entire field was then filled with family and friends congratulating the new graduates.