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Graduations 2018
Liberty, Bradwell seniors get sendoff to future
Liberty County seniors at last year's graduation. - photo by Annie Torres

Cloudy skies and the threat of rain were no match for the high spirits of the 2018 Liberty County High School graduates and their supporters. Both sides of the stands were filled at the Donnell Woods Stadium on Saturday as 272 graduates received their diplomas.

The commencement began with the graduate’s processional to “Pomp and Circumstance,” accompanied by the LCHS Band and cheers of family and friends. Senior class officers Noah Waters, Eternity Cliett Briggs and Corinne Kelly each participated in the program before the salutatory and valedictory addresses.

The class of 2018 had many things to celebrate, according to salutatorian Brianna Austin. She told the crowd that 43 students graduated with honors and 45 received private scholarships totaling nearly $825,000. Seventy percent of the class will pursue post-secondary degrees while 25 percent will enter the workforce and the remaining five percent have committed to a branch of the armed forces.

The LCHS Chorus followed the announcement with a rendition of “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers.

Before the awarding of diplomas, the 2018 valedictorian Kerstin Norby reflected on the friendships and memories created as a high school student. She then encouraged her classmates to be proud of what they accomplished at Liberty County High, and to never let fear of the future keep them from taking chances. 

“As we leave here tonight headed to the future, never forget where you came from,” Norby said. “Once a Panther, always a Panther.”

As the anticipation of the big moment grew, senior class secretary Takiyah Phillips reminded the audience to give graduates the dignity and respect earned by being part of the graduating class. Each graduate then got his/her moment to shine as names were called to receive the diploma. 

As it began, the ceremony ended with the graduates filing out of their seats, giving hugs to former teachers, high-fives to classmates and snapping photos with families on the field.

Bradwell Institute students graduated Friday night. - photo by Annie Torres
At Bradwell a night earlier, the rain stopped and the skies cleared just in time for the 2018 graduating class of Bradwell Institute to march across Olvey Field at Hokey Jackson Stadium Friday evening. BI senior class president DeQuan Styles gave the welcome.

“We are transitioning from one phase of our lives into another,” he said. “For some, our next move will be college and additional schooling. Others will join one of the branches of the armed forces and begin a path that involves protecting and serving our country. Some will move directly in the work force and begin a career … regardless of which path you have chosen I encourage you to not forget this moment and these years spent working hard to be able to sit in these seats.”

Senior Sophia Rodriguez offered the inspirational speech, telling the class of approximately 350 seniors they each have a special purpose.

“I pray that you leave this place with your hearts overflowing with joy, knowing that you are successful,” she said. “You’ve made it this far. So I challenge you to continue to be resilient. Continue to be strong and continue to be lights in this world.”

Salutatorian Jordan Spires said senior year was stressful but graduation meant they’ve made it to the finish line.

“Let us always remember the things we learned during our path to getting here,” he said. “The entire goal of high school is to learn. We’ve sat in classrooms four egregiously long years, dutifully suffered through countless tests … and attempted to learn the material that was taught. However these four years have also taught us other things about each other and more importantly about ourselves.”

He said high school was where they developed emotional highs and lows and first experiences.

Valedictorian Dayle McCallar thanked the educators who influenced and nurtured the students. 

“Although you have one of the most thankless jobs in our society today, you are appreciated and valued by those who matter the most, your students,” McCallar said.

She thanked the students’ parents and extended families who helped keep them on the right path.

McCallar said there is a saying at BI, “Once a Tiger always a Tiger,” and that it meant something special to her.

“As a fifth generation graduate of this school, I have thought about this many times,” she said. “It reminds me that although I plan to leave home and Liberty County in August, I will always have a place to come back to or reminisce about when I need to connect to my roots.”

McCallar said being a TIGER meant being tolerant, intuitive, grateful, empathetic and resilient, and that her graduating class should remember they carry all those attributes in them.

“Lead like a Tiger,” she told her class. “And don’t forget to come back home every now and again and give back to the place that gave so much to all of us.

-- Patty Leon 

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