High schools award diplomas to more than 400 students

Published 6:50 pm Friday, May 23, 2014

More than 400 students at six high schools in Chilton County received diplomas at graduation ceremonies Thursday night.

Along with administrators, students honored as valedictorians and salutatorians addressed graduates and guests gathered at each school.

Chilton County High School Principal Cynthia Stewart welcomed those in attendance at the school’s commencement ceremony.

“They will take with them the most wonderful memories they could ever have,” Stewart said about the graduates that would walk across the stage moments later. “Graduation is a process that goes on every day of your life.”

Verbena valedictorian Jarred Penton thanked friends, school staff, classmates and parents for helping him become the person he is, then quoted William Shakespeare.

“‘It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves,’” Penton quoted. “I think this quote says a lot about our senior class.”

Penton offered advice to future Verbena seniors: “Create your own path and conquer that path. Be your own inspiration. Let us show the world how hard we’ve worked.”

After Penton left the microphone, salutatorian Omar Brito-Estrada told the Class of 2014, “Seniors, Class of 2014, we have made it.”

Brito-Estrada offered up many memories from his time at Verbena, a theme that was followed by fellow salutatorian Savannah Johnson.

“I could stand up here all day and share memories,” Johnson said. “I just hope your time here was as good as mine. I wouldn’t trade my time here with you for all the riches in the world.”

During Isabella High School’s graduation ceremony, senior Gavin Payton had the opportunity to speak to his classmates as one of four valedictorians.

Payton followed the precedent his mother, Karen, established at Isabella years before him.

“My mom was the valedictorian of her class, so it was really important,” Payton said. “It took four years to finally have that title. It felt really good.”

Payton, 18, said he and his classmates were a close-knit group.

“Everybody is connected, like a family, and it makes us stick together,” Payton said.

He listed Isabella’s senior prom as one of his favorite high school memories, primarily because of his friends who were there.

“I love all of them,” he said. “There couldn’t have been better people in my life to go to school with.”

Maplesville seniors Forrest Stewart and Colby Chambers had similar things to say of their classmates and how close they are during their commencement speeches.

Stewart, the salutatorian, noted that he and more than a dozen of his classmates had known each other since kindergarten nearly 13 years ago.

“I hope that tonight isn’t the last night we are all in one place, but if it is, I want to thank you for making these last few years incredible.”

Valedictorian Colby Chambers thanked his classmates, teachers, family and friends for their support throughout his life.

“Don’t view graduation as an end,” Chambers said. “View it as an opportunity to be the best you can be.”

He reminisced about exciting milestones the senior class experienced, including the MHS varsity football team’s appearance in the Class 1A state championship game in December.

“These memories will last forever,” Chambers said.

As seniors at Thorsby High School geared up for the graduation ceremony on Thursday, Elizabeth Price said it was a mixture of emotion.

“It is sad that we are moving on and this part of our life is coming to an end, but it is also exciting,” Price said. “I will definitely miss my friends.”

Senior Morgan Waits said she was excited about graduating and “excited to get it over with.”

When asked what was the best part about preparing for the graduation festivities to begin, Waits said getting to shop for a new graduation outfit.

“I think the best part was going shopping,” Waits said.

Thorsby High School Principal Russ Bryan welcomed everyone to the ceremony and challenged seniors to take this part of their lives, set a goal and accomplish it.

“I am very proud of you and proud of this class,” Bryan said.

Jemison salutatorian Kayla Endress challenged her fellow classmates to make goals for themselves.

“Dreams don’t work unless we do,” Endress said.

JHS valedictorian Morgan Lucas thanked her family and friends for their support during this chapter of her life.

“It is hard to believe this long-awaited day is here,” Lucas said. “We have made lifelong friends who will always be just a phone call away.”

JHS valedictorian Kaiser Woodley said, “We all have the capacity to do something great.”

“I challenge the class of 2014 to do something amazing.”