>"Today, we are here to mark the completion of one journey and the beginning of another," said class president Serena Bell to her classmates at Robert E. Lee High School's graduation Monday, June 18, at the Patriot Center.
In her welcoming speech, Bell made it clear from the start that parents are owed a debt of gratitude on graduation day. "None of this would have been possible without my family," she said, noting that her mother was an immigrant who taught her children to fight for what they wanted.
"Our families have worked hard for us to grow and experience new things," said Bell. The class of 2007 came from diverse backgrounds, she said, "but through our diversity we came together." Bell said that tragedies both large-scale, such as 9-11 and the Virginia Tech shooting, and personal had only brought the classmates together. "Without each other, we may not have made it to where we are today," she said.
As a class, said Bell, "we have overcome obstacles large and small and become scholars and better people." She concluded, "thank you for the memories. I love you all, and good luck."
Principal Donald Thurston also asked that parents, grandparents and guardians be given credit for the class success. To the graduates, Thurston said, "You have brought pride and honor to our school." He said this distinction was won not only through achievement, but also through service and personal conduct. "You have represented yourselves and Robert E. Lee in an outstanding fashion," he said.
Thurston presented the Lancer Award, honoring "outstanding service to the class," to graduates Kimia Keshavarz and Chris Ostersen. The Faculty Award, which Thurston said recognizes citizenship, service, character and academic achievement, and is "the highest honor given by the faculty," went to Katharina Barkley and Georgio Cueto.
IN HER VALEDICTORIAN Address, Kerri Coon said she had recently seen a co-worker searching for a missing gold plate that had been given to her in recognition of her service to the county, and Coon said she had wondered why this small token would hold such importance for her colleague. Coon said she had since begun to see the importance of self-satisfaction, which might be derived from the recognition of others. "But at the end of the day," she said, "I've come to realize you only get the recognition you deserve from yourself." Coon urged her classmates to "let go of what others you to be."
On graduation day, she and her classmates would receive a token for their efforts, said Coon, but she said the last four years were ultimately about teachers, parents and friends.
The day's commencement speech was given by three staff members, who shared some of their memories of the class. Teacher Erinn Harris recalled that the class of 2007's first day of high school had been her first day of teaching. "I was just as scared as you were, but hopefully, I hid it just as well," she said. But, in the end, said Harris, her students matured "a little" and found their place "like I found mine, which, ironically, did not include teaching ninth grade — ever again."
However, said Harris, when she had many of the same students in her 10th-grade class the next year, they had matured and "actually become tolerable."
Teacher Lauren Jensen recalled her students donning mobster costumes, complete with "ominous violin cases," teaching her to dance the Charleston and playing guitar in class.
The graduates had never stopped asking for passes or forgetting their schedules and locker combinations, said Kathy Leger, who works in the main office, although she noted that she could always be bribed for these things with flowers and dark chocolate.
Jensen recalled the switch to "senior time," when first period officially started 20 minutes after the bell rang, and the vast amount of effort the classmates had put into events like the class lip sync, "yet you never seemed to be able to turn in your assignments on time."
Harris noted that the graduates had managed to teach her a few things along the way, such as the meaning of "dip set" and "swellin'" and that Popeye's chicken might be better than Bojangle's. "Most importantly, though, you taught me that we are in the right profession," she said.
"It is required that you came back to see us, but only after 2:05," said Leger. "If you try to sneak into the building without checking in, I will have to sic Mr. Walker on you." In the years to come, she told the class, "be proud of who you are. No matter what you are doing, do your best."
"Give yourself to the moment," Harris said, and Jensen finished: "Let it happen."