ASHTON — “Breathe. Just breathe.”
These were the comforting words spoken by Cherry Weikle, staff member at Hannan High School, as she calmed the nerves of some of the Class of 2016 as they awaited their big entrance into the gymnasium on Saturday to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance.” There were 42 diplomas awarded to Hannan Wildcats during the school’s 87th commencement ceremony.
Anna Taylor was the school’s top student and was joined by fellow honor students Charles “Chad” Withers, IV, Shelbie Mayes, Jasmine Mayes, Allison Blake and Cassandra Meadows. Meadows led the Pledge of Allegiance and delivered the prayer.
Blake was the first to deliver remarks to her fellow graduates, reminiscing about the years between seventh grade and senior year. She spoke about losing classmate Shane Meadows sophomore year and how, “That year seemed to slow down to almost a stop for all of us.”
Blake then spoke about this year, adding: “Now that we are seniors and we get ready to watch each other walk across this stage, you will have many feelings. I don’t know if it will be feelings of happiness, longing, hate or even indifference. But you will have a memory with each and every one of us. That is the glory of coming from a small school. You get to know each other, not just recognize a face from one of your classes or from the hallways.”
Jasmine Mayes then addressed her class, talking about how fragile life can be: “I’ve learned though, within a matter of seconds, our lives can change forever. How do we know to turn left instead of right? Our lives can be changed from who enters and who leaves, our lives. Fellow graduates, over the years at Hannan, we have experienced some not so great memories. To the friends we have made over the years, and to the one friend we lost in the process. One minute, it seems like we have a plan for ourselves, and the next minute it seems like your life is falling apart. In life, people will come and people will go. I’ve learned, the people who are meant to be in your life will find a way to stick around. Every person is either a blessing or a lesson.”
Shelbie Mayes was next and her remarks included what she would and would not miss about high school: “I will not miss the drama, bad attitudes or those last minute grades. Something else that I will miss? The people. I could never explain how thankful I am to graduate from a school that gives students an extra push and reminds them that there are people who care about them.”
Shelbie also had some advice for underclassmen and seniors: “My advice for underclassmaen would be to never give up, always stay on top of your grades, and always check your engrade. Fellow seniors, we need to stop taking the pictures and live inside them. If we want to make something happen, we need to get in the driver seat and make it happen.”
Withers then approached the podium, talking about the class’ new beginning: “As I leave here, the one component that I will take with me is responsibility. I am sure many will agree, preparing for adulthood is a scary thought, and many of us aren’t ready for the responsibility that we must uphold in society. Thankfully, our faculty here at Hannan has taught us how to be responsible for our actions, even accountability.”
Withers then spoke about character: “Character played a significant role in who I am today. I’ve learned that character doesn’t stop once you leave the classroom; it’s carried with you wherever you go. I’ll never forget walking through the halls as a freshman and looking up to the senior class of 2013 and wondering what I’ll be like when I’m in their shoes. Now that I am placed in their shoes, I acknowledged that I possess the character needed in order to be a role model for younger classes and a success in society.”
Withers ended his speech talking about the importance of friends, family, faculty and God, telling graduates: “We’ve got this Class of 2016.”
Taylor then gave what has traditionally been known as the valedictorian address and began it discussing expectations.
“Today is the day everyone expects us to immediately become adults, to realize high school is over and it’s time to face the real world. But in reality, we are just scared kids trying to figure out what to do with the rest of our lives. But that’s the beauty of it all, no matter how many people tell you what to do with your life, you don’t have to listen. It’s finally our turn to decide what to do and how we want to do it.”
Whatever her classmates decide to do with their lives, Taylor told them: “All that matters is your happiness. Just make sure you’re happy.”
Taylor then spoke about the Hannan family, joking: “We aren’t always a happy one (family), but a family nonetheless. We’ve been through a lot of happy times, sad times, miracles and tragedies but we’ve made it through it all, together. Despite our differences, we’ve always been there for each other, especially during the hard times. Everyone thinks that small towns are a prison that can’t be escaped. But I consider this small town the biggest blessing God has granted me. I’ve also learned that the only people you can count on is your family, I’m glad I have one big, crazy, compassionate and loving family right here. And to the Class of 2016, let the Lord lead you, follow your heart and never forget the little town you came from, because Lord knows, it won’t forget you.”
The Hannan Choir then performed, including the song, “I Lived” by One Republic. Next, School Counselor Jessy Scott presented the honor graduates and Dr. Karen Oldham then presented the class to Superintendent Jack Cullen. Graduates were then each called to the stage to be presented with their diploma by Mason County School Board President Greg Fowler and were congratulated by school and administrative staff.
Tylor Tomlinson and Andrew Williamson then led the crossing of the tassels.
A complete list of graduates from the Class of 2016 is as follows:Rachel L. Adkins, Shannon L. Akins, George A. Anderson, II, Cody A. Baird, III, James M. Ball, Allison P. Blake, Isaiah M. Burgess, Mollie L. Cade, Aaron M. Coon, Lanie M. Craig, Clarissa N. Crank, Hannah B. Eads, Sarah E. Ferrell, Sara M. Fielder, Ryan D. Gerlach, Katelyn E. Gillispie, Candace A. Harper, Kenneth R. Hatten, William M. Holmes, Logan S. Hostetter, Logan R. Huffman, Hannah C. Johnson, Dylan M. Kitchen, Jasmine R. Mayes, Shelbie A. Mayes, Devin M. McCallister, Tristen B. McReynolds, Cassandra L. Meadows, Joshua N. Miller, Miranda D. Mullins, Alice A. Perdue, Cole L. Poore, Dennis T. Powell, Jonathan A. Pullins, John B. Settle, Anna R. Taylor, Tylor S. Tomlinson, Calyon J. Turner, Ashley N. Wallace, Samantha B. Whitt, Andrew L. Williamson, Charles R. Withers, IV.
Also, members of the Class of 2016 requested the late Shane Meadows be placed as an honorary graduate with their class. Meadows, who passed away from an illness in 2013, would’ve graduated with his fellow Wildcats this year.
Reach Beth Sergent at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.