Three hundred sixty-four Bradwell Institute seniors graduated Friday night during the school’s first-ever commencement on the new Olvey Field.
Thousands of family members and friends nearly filled both sides of the stadium, all ready to cheer their graduate.
Supporting the ceremony was the Bradwell Institute band, choir and color guard provided by the BI’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. With so many students graduating, the band played “Pomp and Circumstance” for 15 minutes until all graduates and advisors were in their place.
“This journey toward graduation has often not been an easy road for our graduates,” Principal Scott Carrier said. “Our goal has been to challenge them. This meant creating assignments that were rigorous and thought-provoking... As I now look out on this group of graduates, I can proudly say we have reached our goal.”
Carrier then told graduates they would be missed. He said, however, he and the faculty were looking forward to seeing how each graduate continues to grow and learn, and contribute to their community.
During her remarks, Liberty County Superintendant Dr. Valya Lee encouraged graduates to not rest on their laurels.
“Your work is not over,” Lee said. “In many ways, it has just begun. Your sigh of relief for making it over the high school hurdle should be a short one...
“I challenge you to stay focused... You can accomplish whatever you set your minds to do... Your best is yet to come.”
Senior class President Heather Rego and several other seniors presented a large, mozaic mural of a tiger, the Bradwell mascot, to Carrier. Rego said 30 seniors participated in the project, which they were proud to leave as the senior class gift to the school.
The presentation of graduates took even longer than the entrance with each student called by name. After the presentations and school alma mater, Carrier presented the Bradwell Class of 2014 to their family and friends and 364 blue caps flew in the air. There was nearly as much shouting on the field as there was in the stands.
During the recessional, the graduates continued to cheer and whistle as they liend up at end of the field to receive diplomas from their homeroom teachers.
With Lee’s words still ringing in their ears, Deana London and Blake Smart were thinking about the next stage in their lives. Technical college is a big part of it for both.
“It feels amazing to graduate,” London said. “I’ve finally accomplished what I’ve worked so hard for all these years. I plan to move to Atlanta where I hope to major in radiology at Hutchinson Technical College.”
Smart had to be coaxed into smiling or saying anything. Finally, he shrugged and grinned.
“I’m just glad to have graduated,” he said, explaining he’s been attending Liberty College and Career Academy. “I plan to take night classes and continue working in automotives.”
As family members congratulated their graduates, the closing remarks by class salutatorian were visible on the faces of graduates. Dylan Stephen had paraphrased a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, saying they were finally “free at last.”