‘A symbol of something greater’

Published 10:58 pm Saturday, June 18, 2011

Celebration: Nansemond River High School seniors raise their mortarboards in victory at the conclusion of their graduation ceremony on Saturday.

Area schools send a fresh crop of graduates into the world

By Emily R. Collins and Tracy Agnew

Staff Writers

To Lakeland High School valedictorian Sydney Folsom, each diploma she and her fellow graduates received is a unique symbol of their high school years.

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“For each of us, that piece of paper holds different meaning, a symbol of something greater,” she said.

Commencement: King’s Fork High School graduate Caitlin Page celebrates with her parents, Meg and Rick, after commencement ceremonies at the school on Saturday. Page will attend James Madison University in the fall.

Folsom said for some, it represents the challenges they overcame to graduate, while others see it as a reminder of the memories they gathered while in high school.

“I’m proud of each person in this room who has a story to attach to this day that will make them smile not only today, but far into the future,” Folsom said.

Seniors at Suffolk’s three public high schools celebrated their commencement ceremonies on Saturday.

Superintendent Deran Whitney advised the graduates at the three high schools to search for their passions, stay engaged in life and hold themselves accountable for their mistakes.

“Meaning is what brings real wealth in life,” he said.

Whitney also told the students to think of life as a book and to remember they are the authors of the stories.

“Like many books, life will have chapters,” Whitney said. “You’re here to close one chapter of life but also here to open another.”

Nansemond River valedictorian Eric Riley also compared life to a book when he told his fellow graduates to enjoy the stories that make up their lives rather than rushing to finish.

“The end of the novel, the completion of the work — that’s just a byproduct, not the importance,” Riley said. “The real importance is in the story.”

King’s Fork High School valedictorian Lark Washington said she learned the importance of relying on herself, rather than others, during high school.

“It was, at times, quite difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “We should not be afraid to take the next step in the rest of our lives.”

The principal of each high school also addressed the graduates.

Lakeland principal Thomas Whitley said he sees the promise of a new day in every graduate of 2011.

“The sense of pride you feel right now is something you should always embrace,” he said. “Excellence is not the goal; it is the expectation.”

See more photos from the commencement ceremonies by visiting the Suffolk News-Herald’s Facebook page.