Southern Vance students celebrate their official status as high school graduates, joining other local Class of 2005 members who graduated earlier Friday and Saturday.
More than 400 students graduated from high school in Vance County between 7 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday. They followed different paths to earn the right to don caps and gowns at four different schools, but they share a future responsibility to put that education to work to better themselves and in the process make the Henderson area a better place for all of us to call home.
With that shared future in mind, we offer a combined scrapbook of the sights and sounds of Graduation 2005. From the first notes of “Pomp and Circumstance” under bright sunshine at Western Vance High School on Friday evening (hear Northern Vance’s version) to the final notes of the recessional at Southern Vance High School under threatening skies early Saturday afternoon, the unique features of commencement at Western, Southern, Northern and Kerr-Vance Academy formed a shared experience for the graduates and their friends and families.
Over the course of 18 hours, 32 young adults at KVA, some 30 at Western, about 185 at Northern and about 155 at Southern participated in their graduation ceremonies; a handful of others earned their diplomas but skipped the pomp.
At Western, the graduating class of 34 not only was the biggest in the school’s brief history as a diploma-granting high school, but was 50 percent greater than the three previous classes combined, 22.
“That’s 34 people who otherwise wouldn’t have been graduates,” said Marty Smith, the school system’s director of strategic planning. Western serves students who fall at least a year behind academically, including those who drop out but can be persuaded to give school another try.
Having taken the long road to graduation, the Class of 2005 at Western did graduation the fast way: no speeches. The only elements between the national anthem (sung by new graduate Kenneth Magbie) and the presentation of diplomas were Principal Eric Pierce’s brief welcome, a prayer from PTA President Jeanette Floyd, student Ijah Bates’ presentation of a memory book from the class to retired Assistant Principal Jodi Brame (hear Brame’s impromptu acceptance speech) and an interesting a cappella song by Richard Taylor.
When Taylor, having struggled to stick with one key, apologized after his song despite the warm applause, he asked everyone not the beat him up.
“Richard, we don’t measure success by people not getting beat up — I hope,” Pierce said.
The crowd enjoying perfect weather in front of Western appeared to number 10 people for every graduate, showing the appreciation for the graduates’ achievement.
Similar appreciation was on display at all of the schools. For example, at Northern on Saturday morning, after one graduate claimed his diploma, a woman, apparently the mother, shouted: “Thank God you made it! Praise the Lord!”
Northern’s ceremony featured speeches by salutatorian Margaret McCaskill and valedictorian J.C. Poythress III, who managed to throw in a quarter-century-old reference to Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” in a speech that ran slightly more than a minute.
Most of Kerr-Vance Academy’s nearly two-hour ceremony, the only one of the four held inside, was devoted to the traditional reminiscences recited by English teacher Susan Westbrook over each graduate while those in the audience with close connections to the graduate — family, friends, faculty, classmates — stood at their seats in the Crawford Gymtorium.
Westbrook’s comments this year particularly emphasized the athletic prowess and the fearlessness of the Class of 2005. They ranged from largely humorous, such as her statement about Jason Grimm, to serious enough to bring tears, such as her comments about Mimi Keil.
Western and Northern had great weather, and KVA was inside, so it didn’t matter. But by the time Southern’s ceremony approached at noon, gray clouds threatened a downpour.
That led Southern Principal Phillip Rountree to start the procession a few minutes before noon and to hurry through the ceremony. Salutatorian Emily Shaw and valedictorian Joshua Davis had their say. But as occasional raindrops fell, commencement speaker Shirley Arrington won cheers for her decision to skip most of her 10-minute speech.
That left time for the outdoor handout of diplomas and the climax, the turning of the tassels, a moment repeated at high school graduations everywhere. (Here’s how it sounded at Western Vance.)
Below are scenes from the graduation season.
Hundreds of people crowd onto the green in front of Western Vance High School to see the graduation ceremony.
More than 180 Northern Vance graduates line up outside the Vikings’ stadium before the procession.
Kerr-Vance Academy’s graduation traditionally is held in the Crawford Gymtorium, rain or shine.
The Southern Vance band plays through some sprinkles and the threat of harder rain.
School board member Emeron Cash and other dignitaries walk through a sword arch formed by members of the Junior Air Force ROTC corps.
Western Vance graduates march in to “Pomp and Circumstance.”
Members of the Southern Vance graduating class proceed to their places for the ceremony.
One Southern Vance graduate adds some Memorial Day spirit to the march into the Raiders’ stadium.
Headmaster Robert Byrd and Kerr-Vance board Chairman Keith Smith listen as English teacher Susan Westbrook tells the story of the next graduate and the other class members wait for their two minutes in the spotlight.
The Western Vance graduating class settles in for the half-hour ceremony.
They must be in the front row — if they’re among the 32 members of the Kerr-Vance Class of 2005.
With backs to the crowd, the Southern Vance Class of 2005 looks toward the future — at least as far as the receipt of diplomas a few minutes later.
Retired Assistant Principal Jodi Brame hugs graduate Ijah Bates, who presented a memory book from the Class of 2005 to the longtime Western Vance administrator.
Northern Vance salutatorian Margaret McCaskill reads a poem tracing the path of the Class of 2005 from freshmen to graduates.
Principal Hugh Brady’s introduction of J.C. Poythress III, featuring his 4.73 GPA and other accomplishments, takes as long as the Northern Vance valedictorian’s speech.
In the grand Kerr-Vance tradition, several classmates, as well as family, faculty and other friends, rise while a fellow graduate is roasted, uh, praised by English teacher Susan Westbrook.
Southern Vance valedictorian Joshua Davis doesn’t let the dark clouds cast a shadow on his day in the limelight.
Part of the required ritual of graduation, at Western Vance or anywhere else, is passing through a receiving line of important people, in this case school board members and the PTA president.
A Northern Vance graduate shakes Superintendent Norm Shearin’s hand after receiving congratulations from Vance County Board of Education Chairman Tommy Riddle.
An emotional Amanda Forsythe returns to her seat after her turn on the diploma stage.
Northern Vance Principal Hugh Brady keeps the diploma line moving.
After joking that an approaching thunderstorm was going to force a rain delay in the middle of graduation, Southern Vance Principal Phillip Rountree passes out the diplomas quickly to prevent a washout.
Family members jump up and shout for their former high school student in response to hearing the name.
Diploma in hand, a Northern Vance graduate can walk with confidence into the future.
Emily Harper stands in support of Kerr-Vance Academy classmate Mimi Keil.
Mimi Keil gets a hug on her way back to her seat.
One of the more than 160 new Southern Vance alumni has something to shout about after getting his diploma from Principal Phillip Rountree.
Administrators and marshals guide the graduates at Northern Vance.
Western Vance graduate Margarita Martinez casts a glance at the family photographer.
It’s official: Western Vance graduates get to flip their tassels from right to left.
A mortarboard flies in front of Southern Vance Principal Phillip Rountree.
After the Southern Vance ceremony, a couple of youngsters scoop up leftover programs, a coveted commodity because the supply ran out long before the crowd finished streaming in.
With graduation over, it’s picture-taking time at Western Vance.
Southern Vance’s ceremony was too quick to feature much hot air, but helium-filled balloons await one graduate.
A traditional gift is wrapped up for one Northern Vance graduate across Warrenton Road from the high school.