HOWARD CITY — Graduating seniors from Tri County High School have said goodbye to a way of life they’ve come to know well over the past four years. Some will move on to college, others to careers and families; but whatever the destination, Thursday night’s commencement ceremony represented a turning point none of them will forget.
The class of 162 seniors marched into the school’s packed-to-the-walls gymnasium to the traditional strains of “Pomp and Circumstance,” played by the school band.
Senior Robert Bean welcomed students and well-wishers to the ceremony, thanking the teachers and faculty who had helped them along during their academic careers.
Tri County Superintendent Al Cummings spoke to the students on the importance of maintaining their education even after graduation.
“I hope you’ve learned just how little you know,” Cummings said. “This is just the beginning. It’s where you go from here that matters. I encourage you to reach, to reach for the top and embrace the challenges. Life isn’t always a straight line. There’s ups and there’s downs. But we can learn from both.”
Following Cummings’ comments, graduating seniors who play in band rejoined their bandmates one last time for a rendition of “Adele in Concert.”
Senior Dominic Petriella then addressed the group, reminiscing about their early days in school, about the fears and trepidation so common in early elementary students on their first few days of kindergarten.
As school went on, Petriella noted, things got considerably less scary and people who started out as strangers gradually became close friends.
“Then all of a sudden we were in high school and had this homeroom thing, and classes,” Petriella said. “The girls were for some reason a lot cuter. And all middle school crushes aside, we matured, we adapted and here we are. We made it.”
Tri County teacher Colleen Simmons delivered the commencement address. When she found out she had been tagged as speaker, she said, she “did the same thing you do when I give you an assignment — I Googled it.”
Simmons told the students that life from graduation on would be different, but it also could be very liberating, offering freedoms of choice they have never known before.
“Be open to change,” Simmons said. “When I was 18, I wanted to be the next Barbara Walters … when life throws you curves, you learn to swerve.”
Her teaching career began as a long term substitute assignment, Simmons added, but she has never regretted going into education.
Simmons said high school could be a place where conformity and the need to fit in are the norm. She encouraged the graduates to stretch their wings, to learn and try new things and to find themselves in the years ahead.
Tri County High School Principal Kurt Mabie shook hands with each graduating senior as his or her name was called to cross the stage and receive a diploma.
The graduating class exited the gym, and entered the rest of their lives, to the recessional, “Tribute and Triumph.” A fitting song for a class whose motto — penned by Anatole France — is, “To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.”