Students, teachers and family members began entering the Michael M. Skinner Field House at Mount Vernon High School last Wednesday afternoon where 340 students would receive their diplomas during commencement exercises.
The traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” processional was followed by the presentation of colors by Mount Vernon’s JROTC; Samuel Casey Nall Belzer sang the National Anthem, while Pailin Vicky Phersayaphai led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Principal Eric Brent welcomed everybody and introduced the honored guests. Eboni Blake, president of the Class of 2005, then delivered a message to the seniors before turning it over to the combined choruses of MVHS, who sang the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Brent and Esther Manns recognized the top 10 graduates: Phillip Louise Deneault, Amy Lee Fraedrich, Michael Katsumi Hirata, Brett Andrew Layton, Haley Marcene Parker, Meredith Noelle Pilling, Derrick James Thiel, Megan Leanne Torres, Justin Hosea Wilkes and Whitney Marie Zangerine.
Both Thiel and Pilling delivered valedictorian speeches; Pilling spoke about getting “the prize.”
“The prize is determined for us in high school,” she said. “But the rest of our life, we determine our own prize. Our responsibility is to fight for the prize, figure out what it is and how to get it.”
U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R-11), who was selected to deliver the commencement speech, received a chuckle from the audience when he said, “Blessed are the brief for they will get reelected.”
He said that “next week is the beginning of the rest of your life,” and then proceeded to give his, "Top Five Tips for Succeeding in Life after High School:"
1.) Follow your instincts.
2.) Manage expectations.
3.) Never give up.
4.) Be comfortable with who you are.
5.) Take time to give back to others.
Davis inserted anecdotes throughout his speech; one of those was about a college classmate, Moose Magee. While Magee wasn’t the smartest student in the class, he had instinct, and that instinct was enough to get him to invest wisely — so wisely that he was able to donate $250,000 to the college at one of the reunions.
“It’s a small step onto the stage, but a giant leap into the future,” Davis said.