Valley High graduation brightens cloudy skies

Published 11:00 am Tuesday, May 24, 2022

VALLEY — A total of 158 students received their diplomas in Sunday evening commencement ceremonies at Ram Stadium. Most of them — 134 — were the old-fashioned kind from Valley High, but 24 were something new: a diploma from Inspire Virtual Academy (IVA). The ceremony took place under cloudy conditions with rain in the forecast. Fortunately, for the most part it held off. Very few raindrops fell, and it was a happy occasion for a large crowd gathered inside the stadium. The home side seating was filled to near capacity with the visitor side seating close to three-quarters full.

The graduates-to-be marched in from the south side of the stadium, along the track, past the scoreboard and along the east side in front of the h0me side seating. A stage was set up in the north end zone, and the students sat in folding chairs facing the stage. Speakers addressed the crowd behind a lectern at the center of the stage.

VHS Principal Montray Thompson congratulated the seniors in making it to this high point in their early lives.

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“It has been a long 13 years, but you have made it,” he said. “Your dedication and perseverance has gotten you to this point, and you are ready to go on to the next phase of your lives.”

This year’s No. 1 student, Kathryn Carpenter, thanked the parents, faculty and staff for “showing us what to know to live successfully in the future.”

“We may not see each other again for some time, but we can treasure the memories we made here,” she said. “When we started elementary school, everything seemed so big. Middle school was a time for change and to make new friends. We made friendships with older students at Valley High. Our journey has been like being on a staircase and climbing toward the top. We need to lead our lives the best way we can. I am excited about what the future holds for us.”

Miss VHS Hannah Beasley saw graduation as a time for reflecting on where they had been and where they are going. “Covid stripped a lot away from us,” she said, “but we are still strong. Most importantly, we have learned to lean on each other. It seems like only yesterday when we were walking into kindergarten, and now we are standing in front of parents and family members about to be graduates. I have no doubt each of you will be successful in some way. Hold your head high, be true to who you are, have courage and be kind.”

Mr. VHS Romel Jackson talked about a very difficult experience he’d had with Covid.

“I was tested six times and quarantined five times,” he said. “I lost a year of being on the track team. As my mom told me, I put my best foot forward and put my trust in God.”

Romel thanked the faculty and staff at Valley High for doing what they did for the students for the past four years. “Your being there made us stronger,” he said, “and we would have failed a long time ago had it not been for our parents. Our challenges expanded because of Covid, but our parents, teachers, administrators and staff helped us meet those challenges.”

He thanked his dad on having taught him to live the best life he could.

“My name is Romel Jackson, and I will succeed!” he said to loud applause and cheering.

The diplomas were presented by Mr. Thompson and Dr. Tyler Nelson, principal of the IVA Academy.

Some closing remarks were made by new graduate Hazel Floyd and Thompson. The students marched to the south end zone as the VHS band played some recessional music. On the south end of the field, the new grads sang the school alma mater and gleefully tossed their caps high in the air.