Sweltering summertime highs did not stop hundreds of people from filling the stands Saturday at Olvey Field to witness nearly 400 Bradwell Institute graduates accept their high school diplomas.
Parents, grandparents, siblings, other relatives and friends waved and called out to their graduates, donned in Bradwell’s blue and gold school colors, as they filed onto the field to take their seats.
Graduate Lascelles Cuff II lead the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance and offered an inspirational message at the start to BI’s commencement ceremony.
“Never let fame or money go to your head,” Cuff said. “When you reach the top, never forget where you came from – Hinesville, Georgia.”
Michael Hagerty III recognized special individuals in the audience, including School Superintendent Dr. Franklin Perry and Board of Education Chair Lily Baker. Senior Class President Corey Davis welcomed all to commencement, asking those in the stands to be courteous and considerate during the ceremony.
The Bradwell Institute Chorus, directed by Monina Morris, sang the National Anthem and “One Voice, One Song.”
Salutatorian Michelle Zhu alternated between genuine laughter and bittersweet tears during her speech. She spoke about the challenges students typically face each year of high school, as they work toward graduation. Zhu said one of her challenges was learning English when she first came to the United States with her family. She likened high school to a bowl of white rice – everyone walks down the same hallways, and must take the same courses. Zhu finished by saying graduates would go out into the world, into a much larger bowl of rice with many different types of grains.
Valedictorian Bailey LaMotte said he came to Bradwell friendless his sophomore year, but that his fellow students soon made him feel welcome. He told his classmates that they were now adults.
“We are expected to take charge of our lives now,” he said. Some graduates will go on to college, others will join the military or enter the workforce, LaMotte said.
“Each and every one of us has made a choice about what we will do post high school,” he said, adding he hopes he and his fellow graduates will try to make the right choices in life, as they did to graduate.
“There will be pain and hardship, but there will also be success,” LaMotte said.