By STEVEN NALLEY
Starkville Academy’s Class of 2012 began with 79 strangers gathered for kindergarten and finished with 59 friends ready to take on the world.
In her speech as salutatorian, Lauren Atwell tracked the changes in size, composition and maturity the class has gone through. She also discussed the constants — the plays, the sports and the friendships — as well as the ways the seniors are not so different from their kindergarten selves, the ways they have come full circle.
“We now see the world through more experienced eyes, but we still see a world full of possibilities, where the sky really is the limit,” Atwell said. “We will all always be proud graduates of Starkville Academy, ready to take part in whatever comes next because of the lessons we’ve learned from our teachers, coaches, parents and classmates.”
Starkville Academy’s seniors graduated Friday night at Mississippi State University’s Newell-Grissom building and reminisced on times past while looking forward to the future.
Both Atwell and Valedictorian Megan Gammill discussed highlights of the years leading up to graduation. From naps in kindergarten to the flurry of extracurricular activities in junior high school to driving for the first time in high school, Atwell recounted memories all the way through the achievements of senior year.
“This year has been one I’ll never forget,” Atwell said. “I believe that our class has the best artists, musicians and athletes the school has to offer. They are a spirited, close-knit group with great personalities.”
Not every memory was happy. Both Atwell and Gammill recounted a terrifying storm in their first-grade year which ravaged their classrooms and taught them to lean on each other, and Gammill recalled the passing of a beloved teacher.
“As we grew older and entered fourth grade, we lost a dear friend when Ms. Jan Robinson passed away,” Gammill said. “What I’d like to leave you with is this: Remember and cherish your days at Starkville Academy, your teachers, your friends and all the people that brought you here today. You teachers, administrators and staff have each taught us to work hard, never quit and to dream bigger than we ever though possible, and for that, we thank you.”
Gammill also said she wanted her classmates to remember the friends they have eaten lunch with every day and the parents who were their biggest cheerleaders. She also encouraged them to persevere through challenges as they have in the past.
“We’re entering a world far different than the one we’re leaving,” Gammill said. “There will be no such thing as extra credit. Money to spend and time to sleep will be a luxury. We have the power to carry on through all the hard times we will face and tremendously enjoy the fun times that are sure to come in this new phase in our lives.”