In a graduation ceremony Friday night marked by a formal dignity, and plenty of music, for the 11th year since Franklin County High School opened in the 2007-8 school year, several dozen Seahawks were sent out with diplomas to make flight into the world.
Filing into the packed gymnasium two by two, some pairs taking a second as they headed down the main aisle to shake hands, embrace, even dab each other, the 59 grads proceeded to the front bleachers in well-choreographed fashion, as the hearts of parents and grandparents, siblings, and friends swelled.
After greetings from Superintendent Traci Moses, Hannah Westbrook and Landon Nash led the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a powerful rendition of the National Anthem by Debra Fletcher, the culinary art teacher. Later in the ceremony, Fletcher would lead an unusual surprise, the singing of "My Wish for You" by a group of teachers directly to the graduates. To add to the musical touches, William Lee also sang a song, to his classmates.
Following the invocation from Chance White, Class President Ethan Moses welcomed the audience.
“Graduation may literally mean the receiving of an academic degree or diploma, but when I hear the word graduation I am reminded of the opening of a new chapter in life,” he said. “New chapters can be scary at times, this one in particular, because in no time many of us will be out on our own in this world so infamous for its cruelty.
“But I’m not afraid of it, I find great resolve in knowing that I won’t go through this alone,” Moses said. "I know that alongside my family, I have another family in my class. I take tremendous pride…that no matter how much we argue amongst ourselves there is never a doubt in my mind that I couldn’t count on these people when I needed them.”
Evangelina Ducker read the class poem, "Don't Quit," followed by an address by Principal Jill Rudd, and a special presentation by the class officers to science teacher Keilan MacWhorter, who also was this year’s Teacher of the Year.
Speeches from valedictorian Madison Burt, and salutatorian Faith Sapp followed.
“Some might say that a small community such as ours limits our chances, making it more difficult for us to pursue our dreams,” said Sapp. “But being from such a close-knit community as this, we have all been given gifts that schools bigger than ours will never understand. We have been given family, a family that not all of us knew we had back in 2014, but one that has grown and blossomed into something that we will have with us for the rest of our lives.
“We may move away, or we may stay home. But the people who have grown with you and endured those same obstacles as you, are still right by your side. Those memories that you can never forget have been made with these people, and when looking around, I cannot find a face in my peers that has not helped me through something in my life,” she said.
“Now that we have finished our time here, go on to be the best you can be. Just remember, there will always be a small town full of friends and family cheering you on as you conquer your biggest dreams and desires,” Sapp said.
In her remarks, Burt told her classmates that “we stand on the brink of a new chapter in our lives. Take a moment to reflect on everything that we have achieved. Take a moment to look back and see and really appreciate just how far we all have come.
“This day is also full of lasts,” she continued. “We have taken our last high school exams, our last walks down the hallways, our last Friday night games with people we have made hundreds of memories with, our last homecoming with color wars, and our last school lunch and a la carte,” Burt said.
“As we head into the final moments of our graduation, let’s give ourselves permission to soak up everything, enjoy every moment, and remember that we have our whole future ahead of us. The future is ours to take. A time of great change is steadily coming our way,” she said. “Let’s all go and make that change, let’s go and make a difference! Let’s go and change the world!”
In a tribute to parents, students fanned out in the gym to present the class flower, sunflowers, to their loved ones, a Franklin County tradition.
After the passing of the torch with a candlelighting ceremony between officers of the Classes of 2018 and 2019, it was time for Traci Moses, Rudd and Board Chair Stacy Kirvin to hand out diplomas.
In addition to Burt and Sapp, earning summa cum laude honors, considered highest honors, were Jordan Alexander, Christian Amison, Michaela Cassidy, Alayna Covan, Brooke Martina, Ethan Moses, Andrew Nguyen, Sallie Rose Paul, Genevieve Printiss, Leah Reeder, Lucas Sasnett, Makenzie Shuman, and Madison Smith.
Magna cum laude diplomas, or high honors, were awarded Brianna Garrett, Simon Hodgson, Nathan Jones, William Lee, Allison Ray, Hannah Westbrook, and Allie Zingarelli.
Cum laude, or honors, sheepskins were given to Ana Aguiar, Brian Barfield, Katelynn Denney, Tylyn Gillikin, Cara Jones, Micah Patriotis, Audrianna Penamon, Sawyer Stultz, Harper Westbrook, and Chance White.
Earning diplomas were Landen Abel, Shontell Bass, Landon Chisholm, Madison Cooper, Monica Cruz, Mia Cummings, Haden Daniels, Kyle Dasher. Elijah Decourcey, Evangelina Ducker, Joshua Edwards. Elijah Grier, Makenzie Griner, Gabriel Guidry, Jack Harris, Joseph Martinez, Braxton McKnight, Landon Nash, Jesse Page, Taylor Polous, India Sewell, Dalyn Sheridan, Alyssia Shirah, Aric Sowell, Lauren Tarantino, Michael Taylor, and Shazmine Windham.
On the superintendent’s request, the graduates turned their tassels but did not toss their mortar boards into the air. Rather they filed out in a dignified fashion into the darkened night air.