More than 120 students received their high school diplomas during commencement exercises for the Cannon County High School Class of 2012 at Schwartz Field Friday.
Before officially heading off into the real world the group demonstrated humility that would have made anyone proud with the most simple, yet meaningful, acts of kindness and maturity.
One seat amongst the graduating seniors was vacant in memory of classmate Brittany Hale, who passed away in 2010.
“Before I begin the Class of 2012 would like to have a moment of silence,” Valedictorian Lindsey Reed said. “We have a chair open for a classmate we lost.”
The silence reminded those in attendance that the real world strikes some long before this milestone evening.
There was one standing ovation during the 54-minute ceremony and it was dedicated to two graduating seniors who made a commitment and began preparing for the “real” world months earlier – Justyn Brigham and Colton Leonard.
Brigham and Leonard will be joining the United States Marine Corp in June. When CCHS Principal Tim Knox asked the duo to stand and be recognized there was overwhelming applause.
Then classmate Wesley Alexander began what would become a stirring tribute to the two aspiring Marines – he stood and began clapping.
Another classmate stood.
Before long everyone in the football stadium had joined the standing ovation.
“That meant a lot,” Leonard said of the respect shown by classmates and Cannon Countians in attendance. “I am not doing this for recognition. I am doing it because my heart is in it and serving my country is important. It made me feel great that they appreciated what (Brigham) and I are doing.”
Brigham echoed the sentiments.
“I really don’t know what to say,” Brigham said. “I was overwhelmed with emotion. I am very thankful.”
Graduating seniors earned more than $500,000 in scholarship money and two – Sydney Borren and Tyler Stone – were recognized for perfect attendance during their four years at Cannon County High School.
Reed and Frannie Jenkins, CCHS Salutatorian, relived memorable high school experiences during their speeches.
Reed talked about the journey from her freshman year to her senior year. She was delivering a well-thought out speech until she reached a point where a page was missing.
Reed did the same thing she has throughout a strong high school basketball career – she performed well under pressure.
Reed closed by reminding her classmates they had reached a milestone they strived for, yet so much awaits them.
“You begin a new story today and you can make it whatever you want – a fairytale, a drama, a comedy, a legend or even a tall tale,” Reed said. “You will create your own life story and it begins at this moment. Whether you make your home here in the beautiful hills of Cannon County or if you make it elsewhere remember to be honest, honorable, make mistakes and learn from them, but most of all, make a difference in your world.”
Jenkins relived memories with classmates and teachers and also reminded classmates that many more will be made.
“Some of you may share some of the memories I have talked about tonight and some of you may have had a completely different high school experience but no matter where your memories take you from here or what you were involved in, we are all here today for the same reason,” Jenkins said. “All of us, after tonight, will be graduates of Cannon County High School. We will take what we have learned and the experiences we have to go forth and become something great.”