As the Liberty County High School graduating seniors of the Class of 2016 lined up on the field of the Donell Woods Stadium Saturday evening, their families and friends shouted their names and cheered for them from the stands.
The 236 graduates listened to speeches from Liberty County School System Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee, salutatorian Sandra Scott and valedictorian Megan Powell. Members of the LCHS band and chorus performed throughout the graduation ceremony.
Lee’s speech focused on the education that they received and gave words of “hope, opportunity and responsibility.”
“Seniors, I’ve had the good pleasure of watching you close up and from afar, which has enabled me to know firsthand that this is a class full of talented and smart individuals who are ready for the new challenge,” she said.
Throughout her speech, Lee gave graduates several words of wisdom.
“Greet each day, young people, as a new opportunity to make a difference in your life and in the lives of others,” she said. “Always see each day as a gift, because tomorrow is not promised.
“I’ve always heard that the true degree of success is really how many times you bounce back after defeat,” Lee told the graduates.
The superintendent also reminded the seniors never to forget where they came from, that “once a Panther, always a Panther,” and to consider returning to Liberty County.
In her salutatorian speech, Scott focused on the past four years and the choices the students made that led them to this moment.
“This school has shaped each and every one of us into the people that we are today. And without Liberty County High School, who knows how different we would be?” she said.
“While freshman year was exciting and fun, it also held a very important purpose: It enabled us to find our niche, who we are as people and who we wanted to associate with,” Scott said. “Look around and remember the connections we made in that first year. The choices we made four years ago are still relevant today.”
The sophomore and junior years “flew by” and “stood as stepping stones to reach the final destination,” she said. Senior year is when “everything began to fall into place.”
The assignments, college applications and testing they had to do this year were “all to sit here today and be able to say that we are proud graduates of LCHS,” Scott said. “We are on to bigger and better things as we leave here. And whatever they may be, LCHS has given us the skills we need to be successful.”
Powell focused her valedictorian speech on the class’s future and the changes they will encounter after high school.
“And it’s not about going out into the real world. I’ve never liked that phrase. Saying things like, ‘You don’t know what it’s like in the real world,’ although never meant that way, seems to invalidate the lives we spent in school,” she said.
She said the real problem is “coping with change” and how to act when faced with making one’s own path in life.
“You’ve each lived your own life. No matter how sheltered you might have been or might not have been, no one can deny the things you have come through,” Powell said. “The fact that you are sitting here, decked in that gown of black and gold, is proof positive of the validity of your existence.
“I believe that from the time we are born, everyone lives in the real world and everyone begins that struggle for their dream,” she said. “It is only now that we are crossing the bridge into the territory where we can make our dreams reality.”
Powell said changes help make dreams come true and life is not easy, but “challenges make it more interesting.”
“My challenge to you is to not be afraid of changing, of becoming different, because that’s something unavoidable,” she said. “Instead, enjoy the journey and marvel at how much you grow as you strive to achieve your dream, no matter what it may be.”
Before the diplomas were handed out, awards and honors were given to several graduates. The Outstanding Senior Award was given to Diamond Richardson, who was chosen by her fellow classmates.
As the seniors’ names were read one by one and they approached the stage to receive their diplomas, friends and family members waited to hear their own graduate’s name. And when the name was finally announced, people waved and cheers erupted from the stands.