By Tia Lynn Ivey
Last Friday, about 220 Morgan County High School (MCHS) seniors became the graduating class of 2016. All the studying, test-taking and hard work over the past 12 years finally paid off, as each graduating senior received their well-earned high school diploma while wearing the traditional cap and gown. The MCHS gymnasium was packed, filled with family and loved ones, celebrating the momentous occasion.
On account of the rain, the traditional location in the stadium was changed to the gym, but it turned out to be a hit.
“That’s one of the toughest decisions I’ve made in the past four years because I realize it’s a long-standing tradition, but I think it turned out great!” said MCHS Principal Jim Malanowski. “It was much more intimate and parents got to see their graduates close-up rather than looking at the back of their heads from 40 yards away.”
While the traditional locale had changed, the ceremony featured all the other hallmarks of a graduation.
Valedictorian Dana Hicky delivered a speech encouraging her peers as they step out into the next phase of their lives.
Hicky came prepared with Mickey Mouse to wear as she told her classmates, “We’re all about to graduate and it’s time to get serious.”
Hicky reminded the audience of all these seniors had to go through to get where they are now.
“Let’s face it, we’ve all been waiting for this moment for 18 years, and although it’s finally come it wasn’t easy. And through this last year, with the happiness and heartache all while working on college applications and then when finals were upon us — we had to find something inside ourselves, in order to make it through and to reach our goal of walking across this stage tonight.”
Hicky encouraged her peers to keep striving for bright futures.
“As we collect our diplomas and part ways in just a few moments—remember that we all, no matter what, must keep moving forward,” said Hicky. “Because no matter how hard it may seem, everyone should keep looking for the rainbows in the storms, because there is a great big beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of everyday.”
This year’s salutatorian, Elizabeth Cagle, also spoke at the graduation, urging her peers to embrace each moment of their lives and allowing themselves to be happy simply for being alive—a valuable lesson she learned from her brother Daniel.
“You don’t need the stars to align in order to have a good day. You don’t need to do something crazy or unforgettable to enjoy the moment. Cherish the small things, smile every chance you get, and I guarantee you’ll have more good days than bad,” said Cagle. “Inevitably bad things are going to happen in your life. Things are never going to remain perfect. But when things do go wrong know that it passes. And if you keep your eye on the good times it’s a lot easier to make it through the rough patches in life.”
MCHS Principal Jim Malanowski hopes the class of 2016 will carry with them the experiences they have had in the halls of MCHS.
“For the past four years at MCHS, you have been surrounded by role models. Some of their actions have been obvious to you and others might be so subtle that you would miss them if you didn’t pause to think about them. Reflect on what you saw in those people and consciously strive to become like the best parts of each of them,” said Malanowski.
Superintendent James Woodard could not be prouder of the latest crop of MCHS graduates and all of those who helped them reach this long-time goal.
“Your graduation from Morgan County High School represents a great milestone in your life. You should be proud of this recognition and your accomplishments. While being proud, you should also be grateful for the level of support and encouragement you have received from your family, friends, teachers, and especially the Morgan County community. We are very proud of you and wish you many successes in your future endeavors,” said Woodard.
Woodard reminded seniors that their graduation from MCHS was not end, but only the beginning.
“Now that you are a Morgan County High School Alumnus, you enter into the next chapter of your life. The next phase of your life will require you to set goals, objectives and strategies for the future. The saying, “No one rises to low expectations” should set forth a desire to establish high expectations for yourself and the accomplishments you will achieve. Our community looks forward to what you will become and accomplish in life,” said Woodard. “As you proceed forward with your life, always remember your responsibility for service. You leave the halls of Morgan County High School prepared to become a contributing member of society. Your contribution back to society will come in many forms. However, remind yourself to stay engaged in the education of young people in your community. Whether you serve as a volunteer, chaperone, mentor or sponsor make a point to make the difference in the life of a young person through education.”