Outgoing Superintendent Dr. Strader Blankenship summed up the Carroll County Class of 2017 Commencement in the four words “and so it begins.” The ceremony held at Tommy Thompson Field Saturday was studded with applause recognizing sacrifice and service as much as senior accomplishments.
Class Co-President Joshua Michael Myers opened by thanking “all the parents and guardians and community who never gave up on us.” Myers said “We live in a chaotic world, where history is made every day. Some good. Some bad,” He encouraged classmates to always be honest, have courage and be true to themselves.
“If you don’t recognize me. I’m Daniel Dunbar and we went to high school together,” joked Daniel Dunbar as he began his senior address. “Today is the day it starts.” He talked about shared memories and how they had collectively learned two important phrases: “I don’t know but I’ll get back with you.”
Dunbar said “we all have a chance to change the world” and the inevitable upcoming technical advances assured they will not be in the same place again. He reminded them little things matter the most and said as he looked out he saw faces (looking back) who can be anything they want to be. He encouraged them to hold on to hope.
“Thank you for your never ending support for everything I do. I wouldn’t be here right her now without you guys. If you had told me that one day I along with Daniel would be giving these speeches at our graduation I wouldn’t have believed it. Yet here I am. So if it (his speech) goes bad it’s your fault,” said Brennan Vaught in the second of the afternoon’s senior addresses. “We have to be much greater than the things we suffer. Life goes faster as you get older. I fully believe this statement. Whatever you dream there’s only one person can make it happen for you and that person is yourself. We are together in that we have a dream.”
Principal Charles Thompson said every one there was happy for graduates not because they are getting rid of them but because it is a happy day. He said commencement connotes a beginning and this is happening while they are at the end of a high school career.
Thompson listing of Class accomplishment’s included HOSA and FBLA students going to national competitions, FFA students advancing to state competition, MACC teams winning in the Super MACC tournament, wrestlers advancing to State, JROTC winning in State Raider Competition for three of the last four years, Golden Cavs’ medal presentation to staffers, the new swim team, the Lady Cavaliers’ basketball team who qualified for the state tournament, students involved in “The Little Mermaid” musical, the Chorus who performed in Orlando, the Marching Cavalier Band who will perform in the upcoming National Independence Day Parade. and the girls’ softball team being honored by the General Assembly. He said the class had received more than $300,000 in scholarships this year.
“Never stop wanting to do good and great things, never stop learning, remember these things. Right or wrong, make a decision. The road is paved in squirrels who couldn’t decide which way to go,” said Thompson. “Remember anything is possible. Remember that every day is a good day. Even the bad ones.”
He then encouraged Superintendent Dr. Strader Blankenship, who plans on traveling the world with his wife Ruby, to return just as he asks graduates to do. Blankenship was presented a globe inscribed with a reminder to travel but come back.
Tompson said there were 288 members in the Class, 105 received the Governor’s seal on their advanced diplomas, 131 received the standard diploma, 13 will receive an applied studies diploma and 11 completed their Associate Degree or General Education Certificate at WCC while attending high school.
“We’ve been a part of your family for 13 years and we are going to miss you. We know children’s most important teachers are their first teachers – their parents. As you leave to become that person you want to become don’t forget your first teachers and what we have done for you,” said Blankenship. “Teaching is an honorable profession. If you have a chance to look back over your career in school or afterwards, when you get a chance would you thank a couple of them? It’s important. It’s important work they do. Teachers do not teach for money, status or fame. They teach for that moment when they know that they have touched the future. You are the future.”
He praised the work of public officials and said the County has invested enormous resources to make commencement happen, and they need to be thanked publicly and privately for their support.
“I firmly believe there cannot be a democracy without public schools. Period,” Blankenship said. “Another group who made it possible for you to be here today are the men and women of the Armed Forces. We could not have assembled her today and celebrated the accomplishments of our students, parents and staff and community without the sacrifices of these people. We need to thank them every single day.”
Blankenship ended on a personal note which cast what has become his trademark phrase for the past four years to graduates.
“This is my last graduating class so I’m part of the Class of 2017. If you think it took you a long time to get here, I started kindergarten 60 years ago,” said Blankenship. “Please leave this field today and go out and learn. Get a job which requires you to learn new things or go to a technical school, a cutting profession. Do it with a smile on your face and a song in your heart. We are a very special place. After you have become that special person you want to be, please consider coming back to Carroll County to do your life’s work. We need you knowledge, skills and expertise here. No matter what you decide to be, we need those things here. Come home to Carroll County.”
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.