Where many commencements exhort grads to greatness, Carroll County High School’s Class Commencement on May 28 was the Class of 2016 (consisting of 272 graduates) looking back over its shoulder and saying “Thanks for the support everyone. We’ve got this.”
The annual event was held at 10 a.m. on Tommy Thompson Field as sunshine came back with a vengeance. Senior addresses this year were decided by a vote from faculty and students. The two selected were Zackariah Dalton and William Tyler Barrett. Dalton was introduced by Aubree Marshall, senior class secretary, and Class Reporter Sarah Burnette. Greetings to participants were delivered by Senior Class Co-Presidents Barrett and Faith Renea McCraw.
“I’m surprised to be here today because of all the school I missed (along the way),” said Dalton. “To my family (and fellow students) thank you for always being there. Thanks for not letting me dropout even when I wanted to. The Class of 2016 is the greatest class of all time. Wow. Thirteen years to walk across a stage, a handshake and a piece of paper.”
Dalton thanked his parents for being his first teachers. Dalton thanked his mother for inheriting her wisdom, “smart aleck attitude” and love of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt. He thanks his father for “making a man” out of him.
“High School went by fast. Faster than a lap in the Number 3 car in the Daytona 500,” Dalton said. “If we can win a state championship in softball we can do anything.”
He told his classmates important lessons he’d learned from the late Earnhardt were to never give up and they would have to “win some, lose some and wreck some” in life to be successful and to never stop or look back as they chase their dreams. Dalton concluded by saying “Dale’s not dead. He’s a lap ahead.”
Barrett shared memories of how he was scared his first day of kindergarten because he didn’t know everyone. He said he later learned there would be new schools to transition to, amounting to a cycle of loneliness.
“I felt alone going into a group of strangers. What I didn’t realize was that was a part of life,” said Barrett, who said he later realized he was alone because he stayed the same. “I don’t think I really put any effort into making friends (at that time).”
He said his father gave him perspective when he told him he was learning “the easy stuff” in school now and incorporating this in life later was when he would start living. Barrett, a long distance runner, urged his classmates to embrace their lives and find success. He said being alone “doesn’t mean you can’t join the race.”
Principal Chuck Thompson used two very tangible audio visual aids to make his point to the graduates seated in front of him. Holding up a home-plate he asked the students how wide it is, and smiled when told it is 17 inches wide.
“It’s the same (width) in little league, high school, the minor leagues and the big leagues. This distance is the distance between balls and strikes,” said Thompson. “If you’re only taking strikes the coach will walk out, put his arm around you and say maybe you should play for someone else. “
Thompson said people often want home plate widened for them, be it from their boss on their work quality, a police officer on the speed limit or impersonal life from those around them.
“Sometimes we’re a pitcher. Sometimes an umpire,” Thompson said. “When you are the parents I guarantee you’ll be the ump more often. How wide will your home plate be? No matter how old you get, no matter how big you get, your parents have an investment in you.”
Thompson then introduced “Rally Buck,” which had accompanied the class on many of its activities, most notably sporting events. He told them the deer had told him he was proud of their commitment, community support, their successes and to “go Cavs.”
Superintendent Dr. Strader Blankenship stressed the importance of parents and grandparents as children’s first teachers. He urged graduates to repay those important in their lives with a smile, hug, note or a phone call.
“As you leave to become a person, don’t forget your first teachers,” said Blankenship. He said mankind’s greatest achievements in literature, medicine and art have yet to be written, discovered and dreamed. Blankenship told them “you’ve got a lot of work to do and graduation is a beginning not an end.” He also said continuous learning is a must.
He told the graduates to go and see the world, be all they can be and to consider coming back to Carroll County to share their achievements, knowledge and creativity.
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.