Everything from smiles and tears to twisty dances and leaping chest bumps scattered Olvey Field Saturday night as the Bradwell Institute Class of 2017 bid a final and fond farewell to high school.
Pre-ceremony excitement turned to some nervousness for graduate Gian Dalit, who said he worried if his name would be pronounced right.
“But this is the happiest day of my life,” Dalit said with a grin.
His future plans include serving in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Martha Hause is going to Georgia Southern University in the fall to major in either information technology or programming.
“Trying to get all A’s,” was the hardest part of her secondary school experience.
Quindarius Watkins juggled baseball and football while in high school and is on his way to the University of Alabama to study finance.
“It felt great,” Watkins said of graduating.
Saturday night’s commencement began with every one of 335 graduates entering under a white, picket arch. Family, friends, and well-wishers made their support known with standing ovations, shouts, and even custom-made “Straight Outta High School,” T-shirts.
Salutatorian Genesis Maldonado-Matos made her school spirit known by leading her classmates in a final “BI, you know,” chant after her speech. She said in her salutatory that she was almost constantly counting down to graduation, even as she participated in marching band and studied “information that has been drilled into my mind.”
“Every single one of us had a different experience because, like tiger stripes, we’re all unique and different,” Maldonado-Matos said.
Differences crossed country lines for Seyedparsa Torabi, this year’s valedictorian.
The Iran native explained he only learned English two years ago and he used to avoid public speaking in class. Now, in front of thousands, Torabi sparked doubled-over laughter from his classmates when he pointed to a couple lessons he learned outside the textbooks, including the slang word, “lit,” and popular dance song, the Kodak.
“I’m here to tell you that no one can stop you from reaching your goals and I hope you do it,” Torabi said on a more serious note.
Senior Class president Nathan Wallace also seemed to encourage self-confidence, as he told the graduates to “stay true to yourself,” “always follow your dreams,” and “just enjoy the simple things in life.”
“The only things in life that last forever are beginnings and endings,” Wallace said.
Principal Scott Carrier spoke of life transitions, including college, the working world, or military service. His message to the group of “fine, young adults,” was not to forget their high school experiences.
“Cherish and remember them, both good and bad, because all of these experiences have been a major part in moving you to this momentous moment in your lives,” Carrier said.
Graduate DeAsia Smiley was looking forward to a post-festivity meal and a good night’s rest. But she seemed to confirm that “good and bad,” balance.
“I had a lot of fun in high school, actually, making friends and studying. It was pretty good,” Smiley, an aspiring business major, said. “I’ve been in school for four years, so it was good to be able to graduate on-time.”
For graduate and U.S. Air Force hopeful Phillip Pacheco, his approach to high school was to “get it done,” and “do what you’re supposed to.”
Emotions took a different turn for some graduates.
“Just the part of saying good-bye is really going to hit me,” an emotional Benjamin Nicholson said after long embraces with family and friends.
His biggest takeaway?
“Don’t give up just yet because there are people who are with you and will support you each and every step of the way,” Nicholson, an aspiring naval officer, said.
Family also had been a major motivator for graduate JaMacia Eldridge, especially “knowing that my aunt is looking down on me.”
Her dream is to help others.
“I want to be an anesthesiology assistant, but I also want to get health insurance for Africa and Haiti,” she said.
Graduate Jasmin Robin also has her sights on healthcare, brother Jamie Robin said, and he hopes she “fulfills her dreams.”
“I graduated five years ago and it’s pretty cool to see my little sister graduate,” Jamie said of his future surgeon sister.
Teacher DeAndré Davis could be seen taking a selfie with a group of graduates he coached in track. Davis explained why it was important to him.
“Just to see these guys grow from when they were kids, to see them mature, and watch them go out and do great things,” he said. “I wish them the best success.”