The 42nd annual commencement of Massac County High School was held Friday, May 12, with 125 seniors graduating.
MCHS band director Gavin Hayes led the Patriot Concert Band in musical selections and in “Pomp and Circumstance” as the seniors filed in the gym.
Valedictorians Reid Martin, Maley Sumnlers, Audrey Thompson and Nikki White addressed their classmates.
Through his various high school activities, Martin shared that at one time or another, he was told: “Remember to act right because you’re not just representing yourself, but you’re representing MCHS as well.”
He observed how “everyone represents something, whether they realize it or not. We represent our family, our culture, our religion. I aim to represent God in my everyday life. While I’m not perfect at it, I still try my best because I want to represent Him and His love in all that I do. … For the past four years, we, the Class of 2023, have represented Massac County High School. Now, we are going to represent other facilities and organizations, a college or university, our country, a certain career field.
“Even if you’re sitting here and thinking, ‘OK, I still don’t think I will truly represent any of the things he is saying.’ Remember, you still represent yourself,” Martin continued. “There’s something different about representing yourself. In all aspects of life, there are multiple people who are going to be representing the same thing as you are, but only you can represent yourself.”
He advised his fellow graduates: “We each would like to be remembered in a positive way. Don’t portray yourself in an unfavorable manner. Stay away from things, experiences or even people who might alter your reputation in a way that’s displeasing to you. I urge you all to aim for success in whatever career path you choose. Be a positive example in whatever you do in life, for your sake and for the sake of others.”
Sumnlers recalled their first-grade year when they were given their student emails, which “discreetly hinted at our graduation year. None of us thought anything about it because we were too busy still trying to figure out how to spell ‘student.’ ”
That graduation year “quickly crept up on us” and the day they have been preparing for since kindergarten is here. She observed that while the sense of order, normalcy and routine they have experienced since kindergarten is “completely flipped upside down” with graduation, it’s also “the opening (of) a new chapter of our lives.”
She noted the Class of 2023 is the one that ended its freshman year and began its sophomore year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, making their high school career “begin with anything but a normal year,” Sumnlers said. “However, we were able to get through the unknown with the help of the incredible people around us. Although we are all going on our own separate paths, I know we will be able to navigate the challenges of the unknown once again.”
Thompson noted “one thing the Class of 2023 has learned is how to overcome. Year after year, we were faced with difficult challenges — some individually, some as a class. At times, things seemed almost impossible, but no matter how hard things got, we overcame. Our ability to overcome is what has led us here tonight. It is the reason that every one of us sits here as a 2023 graduate.”
She thanked the teachers, family members and friends who “supported us when we needed it as we faced the many obstacles that life has presented to us during our four years at Massac County.”
Thompson wished her fellow graduates luck in their future endeavors.
“I’m so glad I got to spend these past four years with these amazing people that sit in front of me tonight,” she said. “Do not lose the drive and perseverance that got us to this point.”
White challenged her classmates to “take one minute to stop and look around as these last few minutes together represent the countdown of our childhood without any of us realizing it.
“When we were told ‘time would fly by,’ none of us believed it,” she said. “Ever since we were young, it felt like it would be so long until we reached this very moment. Slowly, we began wishing away school days until there were no more school days left. Our countdowns to graduation turned from years, to months, to days, to hours and, now, to the very last minutes our class will spend together. Even though we never truly believed it, our time eventually did fly by without any of us even noticing.”
But now, White said, is the time to enjoy the moment and make new memories.
“There is no more wishing our time away,” she said. “Enjoy these final few moments while they last — have fun and make memories, try not to wish for these countless memories to end.”
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