Seated in the blue stadium seats at the Bob Carpenter Center, Keona Banks wanted her son, ZyKeith Williams, to be able see his support system when he graduated from Glasgow High School Wednesday night.
To ensure that, she had red T-shirts, complete with Williams' graduation photo, made up for the entire family.
“I’m excited. I’m trying not to cry,” she said before the ceremony. “We’re all excited. It’s wonderful.”
Williams is her first child to graduate so far. Those watching him cross the finish line included cousins, siblings, his grandmother and nieces.
“He has to go out with a bang,” she said.
Williams was one of approximately 200 students to graduate from Glasgow as part of the Class of 2019.
The ceremony was filled with a collection of different emotions.
Graduate Tyron Boyer was excited – particularly about not having to wake up so early anymore.
“I’m feeling pretty good. I’m ready to graduate. I’ve been ready to do this for a while,” he said.
Boyer noted that he is going to miss his friends and teachers the most. He noted that he was on the wrestling team all four years of high school, with a good amount of success, which was a highlight for him.
As a final note on his high school experience, he added, “Life is what you make it.”
For Molly Stewart, the occasion felt unreal.
She and classmates Noelle Tinkler and Enrich Rogers were in agreement that friends mattered most.
“We learned through our friends who we are and how to be more prepared,” Stewart said.
Reflecting on the last four years, Tinkler said that meeting her friends was a highlight and, “Other people’s opinions don’t matter.”
At the intersection of a closed chapter and the beginning of a new one, Rogers said, “It’s not about rising up. You have to know your worth today.”
“High school is rocky,” he noted.
“You’ll make it, though,” Tinkler added.
Superintendent Richard Gregg, an alumnus of Glasgow High School, told the students they were ready to take on the world.
“My hope is that you felt that Glasgow was a place that cared about you, inspired you and motivated you to excel while preparing you for the world that awaits you,” he said. “Glasgow High School is now your past. The place many of you called your second home is now part of your history.”
Salutatorian Jayana Turner said that high school can’t be replicated.
“High school was challenging. It had its ups and downs, but we made it through,” she said, acknowledging the workload, due dates and personal relationships. “We have all learned that you have to go through the ugly to get to the beautiful.”
Valedictorian Amanda Leonhard told her fellow graduates the three things she took away from her high school experience – one, persistence is key; two, surround yourself with people who lift you up; and three, academics aren’t everything.
“As we move into the more difficult phases of our lives, it’s important to recognize how much we’ve already accomplished,” she said. “A diploma signifies over a decade of education and success.”
Looking ahead to where they are going, class president Saran Barry shared an African proverb with her peers: “Tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”
“We are the gatekeepers to our story. We are in control of the path we embark on. And then trust in ourselves dictates how confidently we walk these paths,” Barry said. “As we prepare to move on to greater things, let's all be sure to take care of ourselves and to build the trust within ourselves that will ensure our willingness to walk the path you choose confidently and delightfully.”
Principal Harold “Butch” Ingram said Glasgow sought to provide students with a sturdy foundation.
“How you continue to build and fortify your foundation is a decision that only you get to make. When you leave here today, will you know who you are? Will you be able to stand on your own, set your own goals and expectations for yourself and live up to the image that you see for yourself? These are the most important questions that you will face,” he told them. “At this point, 13 years of foundational bricks have been laid, and it's now up to you to design your building. You are the architect of your life.”