In a show of solidarity, Liberty County High School’s 244 graduating seniors simultaneously turned their tassels from the right side to the left Saturday before receiving the signal to toss their caps high into the air.
The 2011 LCHS graduating class, along with family members and friends, had earlier filled the stands at Olvey Field under summer’s morning haze and promise of afternoon heat.
Liberty County School System Superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer smiled broadly and waved to educators and students on the field as she made her way to the stage before the LCHS graduation ceremony began.
"We’re always sad to see them go but excited to see them venture off into their various endeavors," Scherer said.Ignoring swarms of South Georgia gnats, the graduates filed in, trying to contain their exuberance as they took their seats. Some waved to parents and friends while others kept their heads down, trying to remember all they had rehearsed the day before commencement.
"Don’t ever think that you can’t do something," senior class vice president Quierra Jones told her classmates. "Your willpower is one of the most powerful forces on earth and with it you truly can accomplish anything and everything you set your mind on."
The 2011 graduating class’ two salutatorians reflected on the past school year. Rochel Lee lauded students’ accomplishments and Precious Williams put her class’ year in perspective by reminding her peers of recent world events that touched their lives.
Lee said 37 of the 244 graduating seniors graduated with honors and 73 graduates received the HOPE scholarship. Twelve graduating seniors received athletic scholarships and 23 graduates received other types of scholarships from universities and organizations, she said. In addition, 76 graduates received a "with distinction" diploma and 126 earned a dual-seal diploma, meaning those students completed requirements for both college prep and tech prep, Lee explained.
"Two major events that not only impacted the countries they happened in, but also impacted the citizens of the United States, were the devastating tsunami in Japan and the death of Osama Bin Laden," Williams said. "Here at home, people are dealing with soaring gas prices as our county is trying to climb out of this great recession. While these may sound intimidating, the class of 2011 is strong enough to overcome anything."
Senior class president and valedictorian Tiffany Marquez admitted she is nervous about going off to college.
"There are people sitting right next to you that you may never see again, the same people who have left their marks on us," Marquez said. "We are parting paths and leaving our friends who have made us who we are today."
Still, she challenged her classmates to rid themselves of self doubt and fear.
"We have worked too hard for this to be the end," the valedictorian said. "Rather than waste our years of education, we need to go out and use it or we have done nothing. Right now, a world of possibility is open to us; face it bravely, embrace it lovingly, change it forever."