Starkville High School’s class of 2019 moved on to bigger and better things Friday night, graduating in a ceremony at the Mississippi State University Humphrey Coliseum.
The 323-member class graduated in a packed ceremony, and will go on several directions ranging from Ivy League universities to the U.S. Armed Forces. In total, the seniors received more than $6 million in scholarship offers. Hannah Jian was the valedictorian, and Soul Park was the salutatorian. Within the class, 55 graduated with honors, 98 with highest honors and 65 with WorkKeys designations. More than 40 of the graduates were also designated Mississippi Scholars.
In her address, Jian gave a demo to encourage her classmates to keep on going even when they felt worn down. She held up a $50 bill, and asked if anyone wanted it When hands came up in the air, she asked again. More hands came up. She finally stomped on the bill, and repeated the question. Again, more hands rose. She said
“I hope this little demonstration will serve as an encouragement to the class of 2019, because I promise, sooner or later life will crumble you up and throw you onto the ground. Whether it be in college or the workforce, you will face rejection, and it will make you feel kind of worthless,” Jian said. “Just in this past year, I have had so many times where I feel like this $50 bill, but I just brushed off my shoulders and said ‘it be like that sometimes,’ got up and here I am now.
Jian will attend Emory University as a business marketing major. She said the idea for her demonstration came when she was looking up stories to work into her speech.
“I was searching inspirational stories on Google, and I stumbled across this story about the $50 bill,” Jian said. “I tried to center my speech around that story while also incorporating some inside jokes and personal shoutouts”
Jian thanked her classmates, family and several SHS teachers. She also encouraged the class to live boldly and lead confidently.
In her salutatorian address, Park thanked several SHS teachers, and said even if members of the class knew their plans, currently, they ere still moving toward the unknown.
“What’s next,” Park said. “ For some of us it’s college, for some it’s jobs, for some it’s the unknown. My last statement is only partly true, because we are all in our own way, moving toward the unknown. Around this time of year, people are constantly asking us ‘so what are you going to do now?’ For me, I know where I’m going to college, and my perspective major, but I have no idea what I’m actually going to do.”
She said the important part in the uncertainty was the people the class had met along the way and the memories they will share.
“I hope that each and every one of you hold on to the memories that we created here, and I wish you the best of luck in the next choice that you make,” Park said.
Park will study industrial engineering at Columbia University starting this fall.
In his address to the class, SHS Principal Sean McDonnall told the seniors to remember the people who helped them get there.
“Take a second, look around, take it in,” McDonnall said. “You’ve been working toward this goal for the past 13 years.”
McDonnall then told the senior to look to their left and right at the teachers sitting on the coliseum floor and into the stands at their parents and other supporters.
“They’re all here to support you,” McDonnall said.
McDonnall also said he made his annual charge to the students, asking them to show him a college acceptance letter, an acceptance letter to a branch of the Armed Forces or a completed job application, which all seniors were able to do.
“That’s our way of making sure you have given some though to the future,” McDonnall told the class.