‘Today is the day…we close this chapter…’

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 15, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Graduation is gradual

In fact, it’s quite abrupt, a sudden shock.


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It’s more like rushing towards a waterfall

One moment we’re afloat, and then we’re not.

Sure, we see it coming up ahead,

The water roaring into the abyss.

We make a joke and look away instead,

Unable to acknowledge what it is.

Four years ago, hundreds of young Suffolk students rushed into Lakeland High School, anxious to take their final step toward adulthood. But during their years of high school, said Cavalier salutatorian Laura Decker, it was difficult to know how to feel during the final journey.

&uot;We still remember the innocence of elementary school, our childish games and childhood friends,&uot; Decker said to the Class of 2002-3 on Saturday morning. &uot;Even then we anticipated, waiting eagerly to grow older, to mature, and to go to junior high school.

&uot;Sixth grade came and went, as did all of junior high. Our excitement quickly faded over changing classes at the bell and various locker combinations, along with new best friends as each year passed. We thought we were grown and mature, but still couldn’t wait to grow older and get to high school.

&uot;We soon found ourselves measly high school freshmen who couldn’t wait to grow older, so we wouldn’t be the subject of ridicule from all the upperclassmen.

Lakeland opened us up to a whole new world.&uot;

The world was jammed with new responsibilities and opportunities for the Cavalier students; some welcome, some intimidating. &uot;We met many new people and became involved in many new activities, many of which would shape us over the next four years.

We waited impatiently for our birthdays, our learner’s permits, then our driver’s licenses.

With each passing birthday, we wished to be yet another year older than we were, all the while our desire for freedom growing stronger. In no time at all, our first three years at Lakeland had passed, and the reality of growing older slowly began to have some meaning.

Getting older was no longer quite as exciting as it was scary.&uot;

But last September, the former children headed to their school for the final year. After hoping for so long that high school would hurry past, the students now found themselves wishing that it would last just a little longer.

&uot;In the flurry of senior year, we spent as much time with friends as possible,&uot; Decker said. &uot;We had reached our senior year so quickly, that we wished instead to slow time so we could enjoy it, so we wouldn’t take our times together for granted as we had in the past. We tried to engrave all our &uot;last&uot; memories in our hearts forever: our last Homecoming, our last games as members of our various sports teams, our last prom, and our last day of school.&uot; For Lakeland’s 375 graduates, that day was Saturday.

&uot;Despite our efforts, the year flew by and this long awaited day is here.

Thirteen years in the making, here we sit, the class of 2003, our last time together. Today is the day we graduate and close this chapter of our lives.

We look around us, at all the familiar faces we’ve seen day in and day out for four years. A flood of memories washes over us as we realize that this really is it; there’s no going back now. May we never forget the good times we had at Lakeland.&uot;

But even as the journey through childhood was over, adulthood offered a brand new set of beautiful opportunities. &uot;We have an entire book full of blank pages onto which we will write the rest of our lives. May we fill all these pages with times of happiness and success, no matter what path our lives may follow.

Remember this: Dream what you want to dream; go where you want to go; Be what you want to be, because you only have one life and one chance to do all the things you want to do.&uot;

Valedictorian Mercedes Holland, who’ll become a student at Virginia Tech this fall, urged her classmates not to fear their new lives, but to accept them with an eager sense of ambition.

&uot;Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and dedicated individuals can change the world,&uot; said an emotional Holland. &uot;When we leave here today, I know that all of you will go out into the world and do amazing things. It will not always be easy, but if you ever feel like giving up, like your efforts aren’t doing any good, just remember that you may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.

&uot;Although there are things and people we will miss, don’t fear change. We shouldn’t worry about what we are leaving behind, instead, we should concentrate on what our future holds. Don’t be sad that our high school experience is over, rejoice in the lifelong friendships that you have made and the challenges you have overcome. We should forget the bad times and the unpleasant deeds, as if they are footprints in the sand, that can be blown away in time, and remember the good deeds and wonderful memories as footprints in concrete that will last forever.&uot;

The Cavaliers were never alone during their four-year trek, she continued. &uot;Don’t forget to thank your teachers, parents, and the people who have helped you along the way. Even when we pushed our teachers to their wits end, they still inspired us to be better people. We should thank Clairol for helping the teachers hide the gray that we so vigorously bestowed upon them. I thank all the teachers that helped me grow in character, my friends, you were my inspiration and my strength, and most importantly, my family, because I wouldn’t have made it without any of you!

&uot;We are all special and each and every one of us has succeeded, which is why we are here today, graduating!&uot; she finished, now shouting to a cheering crowd. &uot;Good luck, God bless, and congratulations class of 2003! WE ARE FINALLY FREE!&uot;