Congrats to the Rams: Valley High School 2024 graduation

Published 7:00 am Friday, May 24, 2024

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VALLEY — Some gorgeous weather provided a pleasant setting for Valley High’s Class of 2024 graduation ceremony held at Ram Stadium. School Principal Montray Thompson presented diplomas to 97 seniors. This group earned more than $3.5 million in scholarship offers.

A huge crowd was present to witness this big event for the graduates. More than three-fourths of the home-side seats were filled, and many people were on the visitors’ side as well. Many more people stood on the bank behind the home side seats. Family members in the jubilant crowd greeted the name being called of their favorite senior with cheering, the release of balloons and the sounding of air horns.

Dressed in their caps and gowns, the students marched around the stadium track toward the west end zone where a stage had been set up, faced by well over 100 fold-up chairs.

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The program began with the presentation of colors by the VHS Army ROTC color guard. Senior Heavenly Overcash sang the National Anthem and fellow senior C.J. Chambley led everyone in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Mr. Thompson and Nevaeh Crane welcomed the attendees.

Mr. VHS Jackson Sanders and Miss VHS Kyndalin Gonzalez made graduate addresses. Sanders has been an outstanding pitcher on the baseball team and will continue his fine play on the diamond at Auburn University. Gonzalez will continue her education at Troy University.

“Good evening and welcome family, friends, teachers, administrators and fellow classmates,” Sanders said. “I stand here tonight as a proud product of the Chambers County School District and Valley High School. It has truly been a blessing to attend a school system with such caring people that have helped mold me into the man I am today. I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to you tonight.”

Sanders talked about his journey in the local school system. His journey started in kindergarten. “Although we don’t remember a lot from these early years, our parents and teachers sure can tell some stories,” he said. “The photos we have of that time look like we had it made. We began making lifelong friends during those days. Playing games, drawing, building things with blocks, playing dress up and not to mention a couple of my friends sitting here tonight got married in pre-K, Yes, and I have pictures to prove it!”

Elementary school for Sanders was a time to face such challenges as having new teachers every year and the coming and going of friends. “Some things remained the same though,” he said. “You could always count on dodgeball on Mondays and pizza with corn on Fridays. Somewhere in there, we’d have the best day – chicken nuggets!”

That drew some smiles and laughter from the big crowd.

Such activities as going to critter shows in the gym or taking a trip to the Christmas Merry Go Round seemed like a normal day at school but are now something special. “They are priceless,” he said. “Going on our first field trips and being on the hay ride at the fall festival gave us some great memories.”

To the kids who played it, the Fairfax Football League was a bigger thing than the NFL and the Super Bowl. “We had uniforms and the cheerleaders had pom moms,” Sanders recalled. “It is where we learned to compete. It was where we learned good sportsmanship and showed it… sometimes. Several of us here today are furthering our athletic careers and I want to thank our coaches for getting us to give that extra effort to attain high goals.”

By the sixth grade, some of the students were on a blue team and some were on an orange team. 

“If you were on the orange team you were in good shape,” he said. “That was Team Autry!”

Middle school was three years of meeting new people, changing classes and playing school sports. “We had school spirit, that’s for sure!” Sanders said. “2020 was a year that stands out. It was our eighth-grade year and supposed to be an amazing finish to middle school. Instead, we lost a lot that spring. We lost the end of our school year and our spring sports due to Covid. Some of us lost family members and friends. It was a hard time, but we were strong and made it through.”

Things got better at Valley High. “Freedom!” said Sanders. “That’s the best word that describes it. We had the freedom to make good choices or bad choices. We had the freedom to be a good student or a bad student. No one was there to sign your folder, hold your hand or make decisions for you. I would say all of us sitting here tonight did a pretty good job handling the freedom.”

High school meant Friday night football games and homecoming dances. “Everyone has different stories to tell, different memories,” Sanders said, “but they all tie us together as Valley Rams. The Class of 2024 has achieved so much already, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. In closing, I would like to say thank you to all of our teachers. We haven’t always said it or shown it, but we love you and appreciate you more than you will ever know. To my fellow graduates, this is not the end. It’s the beginning. Go and be someone. Do great things. Be great people. Be good representatives of the Class of 2024. Go Rams!”

Gonzalez had lots of thank yous in her remarks. “I first want to thank my parents for the countless hours and support they have given me throughout my years in high school,” she said. “Then I would like to thank the faculty and staff who have constantly encouraged me throughout these years. A special thanks goes to Mr. Thompson for his continuous support, encouraging words and dedication to every one of us.”

“As we stand here today on the edge of a new chapter in our lives I am filled with a sense of excitement, pride and hope for what the future holds for each of us,” she continued. “Today marks the end of our time as students, but it also marks the beginning of a journey filled with endless possibilities and opportunities. As we move forward into the future, I urge you to remember the lessons we have learned during our time here. Remember the late nights spent studying, the friendships created and the challenges overcome. These experiences have shaped us into the individuals we are today, and they will continue to guide us as we navigate the world beyond the walls of our school. Congratulations, classmates. I am very proud of each and every one of you. Here’s to the future and the amazing things it holds.”

Jameson “Jay” Harper made some closing remarks on behalf of the Class of 2024. “I am so proud to graduate as a Valley Ram,” he said. “I grew up on this same field watching my dad coach. What a wonderful journey it has been to have been at this school, but how did the time pass by so fast? The road ahead of us will have its challenges, but we will carry with us the memories we made here and the wonderful friends we had.”

Harper said that life is very much like a football game. “You win some and you lose some,” he said. “You must be prepared to deal with many different situations. It’s now the fourth quarter of our final game at Valley High. It’s time to say goodbye to Valley High. Remember, it’s not how life treats you but how you treat life. Thank you, parents, for always having believed in us even when we doubted ourselves. Fellow classmates, keep reaching for the stars and always remember, once a Valley Ram always a Valley Ram.”

Mr. Thompson returned to the lectern to tell the seated graduates to turn their tassels. “Class of 2024,” he said. “You are all now graduates of Valley High.”

That remark drew the largest response from the crowd.

The newest alumni of Valley High they marched as a group to the east end zone of Ram Stadium, formed a large circle and sang the school alma mater. Some then tossed their caps into the air. There were then lots of shouts of happiness, hugging each other and promises to stay in touch.