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More than 750 Bedford County seniors walked across the floor of the Vines Center at Liberty University Saturday to shake the hand of their principal, receive their diploma and turn the final page of their high school career, becoming graduates of their respective schools.
All of the schools recognized those students who had chosen to go into the military after graduation. There were cheers as proud parents and families watched their children receive their diplomas; there were tears as classmates who had passed away were remembered.
And somehow, “selfies” made their way into two of the ceremonies as well.
Jefferson Forest High School
Jefferson Forest HS Principal Tony Francis said that while some might view the graduation exercises as an end of a journey and others consider it a beginning, “it’s everything in between that makes life worth experiencing.”
Those memories are the ones “that make high school special,” he said to the 312 graduates.
The school’s commencement theme was a quote from Dr. Seuss: “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”
Alana Barnett, one of the JF student participants at commencement, told her classmates that each of them has their own story. “We observe, we feel, we understand,” she said of the gamut of emotions each had felt during their high school years. Barnett said while some “very important chapters” had already been written in their stories, there are chances ahead to write more. “I am proud to be forever a Cavalier,” she said. “Congratulations Class of 2014, let’s go write a masterpiece.”
Madison Jacobs, class president, reminded the class that they had “conquered high school and are more prepared for what the future may hold.”
“The crazy thing is,” she said, “this is only the beginning.”
Student participants during the graduation exercises included Barnett, Sandeep Murthy, Jason Zhang, Casey Davis, Ryan Wilson, Darian Carter, Jae Bae, Anne Marie Drablos, Emily Horton and Benjamin Ottman.
The school’s class officers included: Madison Jacobs, president; Nakalya Harrison, vice president; Chantelle Burns, secretary; Corey Schmitt, treasurer; and Michael Murray, reporter.
Liberty High School
The Liberty High School Class of 2014 was celebrating the 50th commencement exercises of the school.
Principal Tim Overstreet said those classes represented 50 years of achievement and teamwork in and out of the classroom. He urged the 205 graduating seniors to not just follow the paths of others, but to venture out on their own path. “Create a path that is your own,” Overstreet said. “Dare to be different; forge a path that is right for you.”
Student speakers included Megan Christine Beisser, Logan Michael Davenport and George Dylan Toms, with each looking at either the past, the present or the future.
Beisser reminded the Class that 50 years ago a group of seniors were going through many of the same emotions they were as the first graduating class of Liberty High School. Davenport urged his classmates to thank those who had helped them along their way to reach this point. “We are celebrating everything that we have accomplished,” he said. “We need to cherish this moment.”
Toms, after taking a “selfie,” said “the great thing about the future is that anything is possible.”
He said they should take the lessons they’ve learned and use those as they “charge into the future.”
“Don’t forget to think about the many possibilities tomorrow will bring,” Toms said.
Class Vice President Charles Lamie Carroll told his classmates that “our future is up to us,” adding, with pride, that they are “the Golden Class of 2014.”
“We will live up to this name,” Carroll said. “We will be the leaders of tomorrow and we will make our mark on the world.”
Each student was given a red rose to give to someone who had supported them throughout the years.
Class officers for 2014 included: Megan Christine Beisser, president; Charles Lamie Carroll, vice president; Mariel Taylor Messier, secretary; Kennedy Shull Flynn, treasurer; and Laura Nicole Garbarini, reporter.
Other students participating in the commencement exercises included Michelle Lorraine Cox, Oksana Nadirah Kittrell, Robert Lee Wells III and Cade Sennett Skalka.
Staunton River High School
Staunton River High School Class President Ashleigh Dawn Hartsel presided over the school’s 51st commencement exercises for the 245 graduating seniors.
Hartsel told her classmates that “today marks the door opening for the rest of our lives.”
She went through a number of “no longers” that the students would not have to do again. Her favorite: “We will never be forced to take an SOL test again.”
“Instead, we all each take our steps into the world,” Hartsel said. “Make good decisions, but take advantage of new opportunities.”
Principal Michelle Morgan said the Class of 2014 had gone through some difficult times. “Even in crisis they have continued to work hard,, knowing that lasting success comes with hard work, commitment and dedication.”
Morgan said the Class had been resilient. “Along the way they have gained maturity that will enable them to meet the next challenges,” she said.
Caleb Ryan Karnes said the future will be full of opportunities and stumbling blocks.
“We will have the opportunity to conquer the challenges of life and make our mark on the world.”
He urged his classmates to strive toward their future goals. “All of us have worked hard to get where we are today, but the work is far from over.”
William Robert Prowse reminded his classmates that two seats of this year's class were empty, those of Ashley Barton and Katie Thurston, both who were killed in car accidents in 2012. Their absence was deeply felt.
He went on to say that though each in the Class might experience failures along the way, they will experience success. “We will not only make it, we will crush it,”he said. “Find what makes you happy and pursue it endlessly.”
Hunter Allen Johnson told the Class of 2014 that nothing should be allowed to stop them from pursuing their dreams. “Find your purpose, then go out and live it,” he said.
And though the future is uncertain, he urged them to learn from their past mistakes and past challenges. He said the Class came together in unity, following the losses they had suffered together. Johnson said they had learned to persevere. “This school is full of the hardest working overcomers around,” he said, adding “always follow your dreams.”
On stage honor graduates also included Katelyn Noell Dellis, Cheyenne Marie Johnson, Hunter Allen Johnson, Caleb Ryan Karnes and William Robert Prowse.
Class officers: Ashleigh Dawn Hartsel, president; Michael Andrew Coudoures, vice president; and Taylor Renee Morgan, secretary/treasurer.
This year’s graduation theme was a quote from Michelle Obama, “Take a stand against the culture that glorifies instant gratification instead of hard work and lasting success.”