A parade of blue and gold marched across the ornately decorated Olvey Field. Families sat on the bleachers of Hokey Jackson Stadium, anticipating the call of their child’s name.
Their children were receiving their Bradwell Institute diplomas during Friday’s commencement.
"We’ve come a long way from being the insecure freshmen who had to use a map to find their way around school," Melissa Renee Hawkins, the Tiger salutatorian, said to her class. "We have also achieved great things along our journey. ... our class has grown closer together ... have you heard about our senior prank? ... A bounce house inside the commons area, that took a lot of planning teamwork and trust."
"I want everyone to remember you have achieved something important ... and you will keep on achieving..."
She asked her class to hold on to the memories they built together. And she reminded classmates that like the tests each took in school, life after high school will be a series of tests that measure much more than a letter grade.
"The tests will measure whether you are an informed, engaged and productive citizen of the world and it will
take place in schools and bars and hospitals, in dorm rooms and in places of worship," she said quoting author John Green. "You will be tested on first dates, job interviews, while watching football and whilst going through your twitter feed. ... Whether you will be easily persuaded by empty political rhetoric and whether you will be able to place your life and your community in proper context….it will comprise the millions of decisions that make your life yours."
Valedictorian Jordan Grace Graham heaved a big sigh before addressing her class.
"I would like to thank (BI Principal) Mr. Scott Carrier for not only giving me a microphone but a captive audience. That sir, was your first mistake," she joked.
She said her class has spent more than two million minutes in high school and while she may not remember all of them, there are definitive moments she will never forget.
"That very first day, when I practically ran to all my classes because I was terrified of getting a tardy," Graham said. "I remember this one day during our sophomore year when a few of my friends and I took over Mrs. Graham’s class and we taught the lesson. I remember getting those wonderful iPads last year. And I remember seeing Mr. Carrier ride a mechanical bull at the senior picnic. Somethings you can never forget. ..."
Luckily, she said, life is not truly measured in minutes.
"Life is not something that has a uniform measurement because it does not have a uniform effect. Everyone experiences life differently and everyone has their own moments that they remember most ..."
After the speeches, the graduates stood as their names were called one by one. Some cried as they received their diploma. Others cheered.