By MATT CRANE
West Oktibbeha County High School celebrated its graduating class Saturday, May 19 at a ceremony in the school’s gymnasium.
Thirty-two seniors marched to receive their diplomas in an event class speaker Aaron Brownlee called momentous.
“Today shows our ability to overcome the difficulties that have come our way,” Brownlee said. “We are all heroes.”
After the processional, accompanied by keyboardist Ricky Howard, senior Paul Thompson delivered the invocation followed by Brittany Hodges leading the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.
A version of the National Anthem performed by Whitney Houston was played throughout the gymnasium.
Senior Shanquanna B. Brownlee welcomed special guests from the Oktibbeha County School Board including Mr. Curtis Snell, President, and Mr. James R. Covington Jr., superintendent of the Oktibbeha County School District.
Salutatorian Sonya Taylor said she has strived to leave her mark on this world from a very young age, and urged her fellows graduates to look to the future and the opportunities that lay ahead.
“Today may be our last day of high school, but it’s the first day of a new life,” Taylor said.
Following Taylor, valedictorian Kory Willis spoke about the strength of his classmates, and thanked his teachers for making the entire graduating class always feel as if they were at home.
“We’re learning how to be independent,” Willis said. “I promise you, this class won’t let you down.”
Willis quoted Whitney Houston and Langston Hughes before ending his speech Saturday.
“Whitney said ‘I believe the children are our future’,” Willis said. “Promise me that each and every one of you will be the best person God created you to be.”
School board president Curtis Snell placed great importance on the parents of children in the school district during his remarks at the graduation ceremony.
“You all are the greatest support system we have,” Snell.
Snell urged the graduates not to settle once they leave, but to strive for only the best.
“Be one among many that stands at the top,” he said.
Superintendent James R. Covington Jr. echoed many sentiments from previous speeches and explained to the class how proud he was of their accomplishments.
“You’re no longer children,” Covington said. “This staff has prepared you well. You are ready, and we are so proud of all you.”
During his remarks, Covington awarded valedictorian Kory Willis with the OCSD Board of Trustees scholarship.
Principal Leonardo Thompson presented the class and Superintendent Covington handed each graduate a diploma.
A special musical presentation was performed by a small group of graduates from Okolona High School including B.J. James, Kasey Gathings, Desmond Hodges, Mareo Bogan and mentor Kendrick Vivians.
While the musical group sang an a cappella rendition of Boys II Men’s “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday,” the graduating seniors handed roses out to members of their families.
Shawna Brownlee led the turning of the tassel and a benediction was given by Phonecia Evans.
The graduates filed out of the gym, but joined together for one last tradition.
As they huddled together, counted to three and threw their caps into the air, the West Oktibbeha County High School class of 2012 celebrated 13 years of hard work, and a bright future ahead.