Around 400 smiling Warren County High School seniors crossed the stage Friday night at Nunley Stadium where they were provided their high school diploma, along with a handshake from Director of Schools Dr. Jerry Hale.
Although the group followed the tradition of sneaking various inflatable items, including colorful beach balls and a couple of blow-up-dolls, into the event, Hale said he was pleased with the ceremonies after everything was said and done.
“This was a good class, the kids were very polite as they came across the stage, very respectful, and I was very pleased with their conduct,” said Hale.
A number of students gave Hale a hug as he handed them their diploma and he said he was humbled, and cheered, by that.
“I appreciate their enthusiasm and show of affection,” said Hale. “Of course one of them was my nephew,” Hale added with a grin. “But I knew quite a few of the students and some of them hugged me, and I have to say, that’s great. I appreciated it a lot.”
WCHS executive principal James Bennett is retiring this year so this was his final graduating class, and he says he has a lot of good memories of this and previous graduating classes.
“This is my ninth graduating class,” Bennett said. “And I have very mixed emotions about leaving. Anytime you’ve been in education, like I have, for 38 years, there’s a lot of memories. Education’s been good to me, and it’s been a pleasure, and I’m really happy for these graduates, and all the ones who have graduated in the nine years I have been there. It’s great to see them move on with their lives, develop families and do great things for themselves and their community.”
Eight co-valedictorians made their farewells in heartfelt, and sometimes humorous, speeches during the ceremonies.
Danielle Miller started off on a whimsical note that turned serious.
“While there are high emotions and fragility floating around in the air, remember this is merely the end of high school,” Miller said. “As cliché as it might sound, this is not the end of your journey, and you are not alone. There are millions of others graduating right now across the world, and many have done so for generations before us. We’ve learned the lessons and passed the tests and now it’s up to us what becomes the legacy of Warren County High School’s class of 2011; do we prove the doubters right, or rather make our families proud? Do we become the dreamers who do and accomplish and rise above the crowd, or do we settle for what could have been. Mark Twain once said, ‘Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than by the you did. So throw off the bowlines, said away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Discover.”
Timothy Ortez was overjoyed at making it through one of life’s principal passages, but bittersweet at what he is leaving behind.
“Class of 2011 ... we’re all done guys. Finally finished. How does that sound?” Ortez said. “We’re done and don’t ever have to come back. We’re free.
“But freedom often has a high price to pay,” he continued. “Looking back, what’s the one thing that you treasure most? I guarantee that most of your answers would be ‘friends.’ After all, they’re the ones that were always there for you, caring for you and being a shoulder to cry on when life just isn’t fair. Sure, you’ve got teachers and family, I wouldn’t be here on this stage right now if it weren’t for them, but friends are just ... different.
Ortez closed with sentiments that all of his co-valedictorians expressed in one way or another in their speeches.
“I want to say thank you my friends, for everything,” Ortez said. “For all the good times, the memories. Thank you so much. I wouldn’t be who I am today without each and every one of you. Cherish the people who care for you. Don’t forget them. I know I won’t.”