With final exams taken and classes over for the year, Mount Airy High School seniors got some last-minute lessons at their commencement ceremony Saturday morning in preparation for the rest of life’s journey.
Along with diplomas, an overriding theme bestowed upon the 124 graduates by several speakers was that leaving high school is a beginning rather than an end — and hopefully what they’ve learned at MAHS will enable them to meet the challenges ahead.
And some of those things did not come from a textbook, Emily Grace Lowe said during her valedictory address.
“In these four years, we have learned quite a bit,” she told fellow classmates, their families who nearly filled the home-side bleachers of the football stadium, faculty members and city school system officials gathered under a bright-blue sky.
Lowe made mention of the academic subjects, athletic abilities developed and other skills one takes away from the high school experience.
“But I for one think there are some far greater lessons taught through Mount Airy’s halls,” the valedictorian added while speaking from a stage set up on the field. She explained that these include things that “cannot be taught in a classroom, or Googled on the Internet.”
Lowe called individual students by name and cited examples of valuable lessons they had taught her, among them fighting for what you believe in, never giving up and being supportive of someone — such as a teammate — no matter what.
“Thank you, Class of 2014, for giving me the opportunity to learn so much about you.”
Emma Catherine Harrison, the class salutatorian, took a literary approach during her remarks. “We are about to finally walk across the stage and move on to another stage in our lives,” she said.
Harrison admitted that she’d had trouble preparing the obligatory Graduation Day speech, and in honor of poet, author and civil rights activist Maya Angelou — who recently died — decided to deliver it in a rhyming fashion.
“Although we’re sad that we’re departing, it’s time to celebrate the new life we are starting,” was one of the thoughts offered by the salutatorian in putting Saturday’s graduation ceremony into perspective.
Harrison advised her classmates to approach “this awesome world” and all that it offers, while also being careful not to rush the future. She referred to the many trials and tribulations high school students must endure before donning graduation attire, saying that they finally got the hang of it — after it was done.
Earlier, when delivering the invocation, the Rev. Eric Helton had set the tone for the students’ later remarks, expressing thanks during the prayer for Saturday’s time of celebration, and for the graduates who have endured. “Help them understand this is the beginning, not the end,” Helton added.
Principal Sandy George borrowed a line from the song “My Wish” by the country music group Rascal Flatts in offering advice to the grads: “If one door opens to another door closed, I hope you keep on walkin’ till you find the window.”
Every senior class is unique, and George and Dr. Greg Little, superintendent of city schools, said the MAHS Class of 2014 has left its mark in academics and sports.
Its members have received about $1.7 million in scholarships and grants, while also helping the school capture nine conference championships and 10 state championships in various sports.
As is the case with most commencement exercises, Saturday’s event was somewhat bittersweet.
“Today we say good-bye,” reminded Alexandria Atkins, the senior class president. This means farewell to Friday night football games, cramming for tests and similar highlights, she said. “But we also say good-bye to each other.”
Atkins also told each senior that he or she would be getting a single yellow rose from faculty members, after receiving diplomas and hearing applause from the audience. She said this exemplified the fact that while they were all together as one, as flowers in a vase, the students would be heading in different directions.
George, the principal, pointed out that for some, this will mean college or the military, while others will go directly into the workforce. And while they might become a UNC “Tar Heel,” Appalachian State “Mountaineer” or Brevard “Tornado,” every graduate will forever maintain a common bond, she said.
“You will also be connected as a Mount Airy Granite Bear.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-719-1924 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.