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Graduation ceremonies inspire memories

Our annual graduation edition was in the May 19 paper to honor the graduating seniors of all county high schools. Seniors’ photos are in this special section, along with the congratulatory messages of businesses and groups from across the county, as well as the well wishes of the newspaper staff.

Graduation is dominating my thoughts these days. It’s hard to believe it’s been 13 years since I took my own turn at transitioning from high school student to bona fide adult.

Adult might be putting it a little too strong. Although this traditional rite of passage is generally accepted as an important milestone marking the change from childhood to adulthood, most 18-year-olds still have a lot to learn about life.

I know I did. Actually, 13 years later, I still do.

Still, graduation day feels like a monumental occasion – the culmination of roughly 13 years of education to prepare what comes next, whether that’s enrolling in college or joining the workforce right away.

I’m proud to be a member of the White County High School (Tennessee) Class of 2008, and I hope all of our local seniors will be proud alums of their respective schools. Wherever you go in life from here, being able to point back to your alma mater and say “That’s where I came from” will always give you an important touchstone for your identity.

Although some details of that historic day in my own life have grown hazy with the passing of time, others stand out clearly.

I remember spending the day leading up to the ceremony with my closest friends. We saw “Prince Caspian” at the movie theater – although, as an example of the haziness of time, I was thinking it was “Spiderman 3” until I double checked the photographs I have from that day – and ate lunch at the Taco Bell. One of my closest friends was the valedictorian, and I was the salutatorian, and I remember us both giving our speeches.

I remember spending the night with my fellow graduates at the school lock-in afterward; “Project Graduation” was an annual tradition in White County, during which – after fundraising and seeking business sponsorships all year – we enjoyed a safe, alcohol-free night of video game tournaments, casino-style games, karaoke contests, dance-offs, snacks, prizes and more.

In fall 2008 I started my college years at Auburn University, and I haven’t been in White County a lot since then – for holiday breaks, of course, and trips to visit my parents, but nowhere near “full time.” Still, I will also cherish the memories I made when I called White County home.

I hope Belgreen, Red Bay, Vina, Tharptown, Phil Campbell and Russellville seniors will similarly cherish the memories they have made here, no matter where they are headed in life after next week.

There are exciting times ahead for you, dear High School Graduate, but there are exciting times behind you, too. Wherever life might lead you, don’t forget your growing up years right here in Franklin County.