From the moment it began, and athletic director Michael Sweatt had the audience in awe at his powerful rendition of the National Anthem, the sixth annual Franklin County High School commencement Friday evening was a moving expression of community pride and joy.

Principal George Oehlert and Superintendent Nina Marks presented diplomas to 59 graduates, the highlight of a ceremony that included both the tradition of presenting flowers to family members as well as the innovation of a giant slide presentation of the graduation seniors.

“To our teachers, thank you for so unselfishly sharing you time, talent and knowledge with us,” said Salutatorian Morgan Walker in her address. “You took the time to explain assignments, sometimes repeatedly because we weren't paying attention. You put in the effort to make lessons more interesting so we wouldn't just tune out. You demanded excellence from us whether or not we wanted to give it. You set the bar high and challenged us to live up to it.”

Walker expressed the gratitude of her classmates in her speech, thanking the whole spectrum of school district employees, from principals, coaches, office staff and advisors, to custodial staff and lunchroom attendants who cleaned up after everyone. “You know better than anyone else what slobs we've been,” she joked. “You actually deserve some kind of medal.”

Walker directed her thanks to the many parents who filled the gymnasium to capacity. “Thank you for supporting us in more ways than it's possible to count,” she said. “You dragged us out of bed each morning, made sure we were fed and clothed for school. You herded us out the door to the bus stop or drove us to school yourselves. You helped us with homework, paid our class fees, and listened to our complaints.

“You came to our plays, attended our sporting events, and chaperoned our dances. You commiserated over our daily dramas, but you tried to give us enough space to learn how to work things out for ourselves,” she said.

In her valedictory address, Stephanie Marxsen both thanked the many individuals who had a hand in educating the Class of 2013, as well as saluted the scholastic and athletic achievements of the school over the first five years that it has been opened. She cited the soccer teams, the Brain Bowl and Odyssey of the Mind teams and the band.

“In the five years that Franklin County School has existed, we have already accomplished so much,” said Marxsen. “However, we can only continue to succeed if we set aside our differences and work together. We have proven that when we all come together as a school, as a team, we can do anything. It's not all about just one teacher, or one group of students. What is most important is representing Franklin County, and this school, in a positive way.”

Following the Pledge of Allegiance led by Senior Class Second Vice-President Zach Howze, and the National Anthem, Katie Wood, the senior class’ first vice president, led the invocation.

“Dear Heavenly Father,” she began. “We are so thankful for all the blessings you have given to our graduating class. As we prepare to enter a new phase in our lives, we pray that you would guide us and protect us.

“Here in this room, we see all the people who have encouraged us and cared for us. Parents, brothers and sisters, friends, and teachers; their love and care is a blessing that we are truly thankful for,” she continued. “Thank you for having brought us to this special night, Lord. If it was not for your love and guidance, we may not be here tonight. Give us courage, strength, and wisdom as we step out on our own. Help us achieve our goals as we live for your honor and glory.”

The class president, Morgan Kelley, then offered a welcome address, followed by a presentation of the valedictorian and salutatorian plaques by Oehlert and guidance counselor Roderick Robinson.

The presentation of diplomas followed. Along with Marxsen and Walker, also receiving highest honors was Elton Olvera. Earning high honors were Christina Collins, Emily Cash, Elisha Patriotis and Katie Wood.

A diploma with Honors went to Skyler Hutchinson, Brittany Bryant, Ryne Fisher, Annalyse Wharrie, Cheyenne Martin, Karl Sanford, Miranda Pilger, Zachary Howze, Shelby Myers, Karlie Tucker, Kerri Williams, Che'na Segree, David Butler, Morgan Kelley and Austin Ward.

Receiving standard high school diplomas were Roxana Barahona, Thomas Benitez, Savannah Boone, Brittney Carr, Daniel Carrino, William Collins, Codee Crum, Darrell Dart, Alissia Dempsey, Cheyenne Diorio, Direek Farmer, Chase Golden, William Harris, Carli Hunt, Tevin Jones, David Langston, Anna Rose Lee, Haley Mathes, Yvonne Mitchell, Jeffery Murray, Hannah Oxendine, Rahkeim Pierce, Julio Ramirez, Joshua Reeder, Chantel Rhine, Ladarius Rhodes, Seth Rogers, Katelyn Rowland, Kayla Sanford, Casey Sapp, TaShay Sewell, Jacob Shuler, Whitney Vause, Shaquana Weaver, Tyler Webb, Lanae Wilson and Ellis Wilson.

Following the diplomas, the audience was treated to a flawless slide show presentation of the graduates’ years in high school, accompanied by popular music selections. Following that, Class Secretary Che’na Segree narrated a tribute to the class sponsors, Dolores Croom and Stephanie Howze Jones, with plaques presented by Zach Howze and Ladarius Rhodes.

In his farewell remarks, Oehlert, who is retiring this year after serving as principal throughout this class’s four years at the high school, thanked the students and promised that Seahawk Nation would forever live with him.