SPS students graduate
Published 8:22 pm Saturday, June 6, 2015
The home of the Monarchs became the home of the Cavaliers, the Bulldogs and the Warriors on Saturday, when the 2015 graduates of Suffolk’s three public high schools turned their tassels and entered the world.
All three graduation ceremonies were held one after the other at Old Dominion University’s Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, where graduates’ family and friends packed the stadium to witness a joyous occasion.
First up at 9 a.m. was Lakeland High School, whose valedictorian, Jeremy Hill, kicked off his speech with bang, declaring, “Money. Power. Sex,” then allowing his audience to react.
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Those things are all selfish, he said, and our world is selfish; but we are selfless when we build and nurture relationships.
“Use the money you earn to help those who are struggling,” Hill said. “Treat men and women with the understanding that they are your brothers and sisters.”
Lakeland mom Nikita Woods said she was proud to see Shaquon Woods graduate. “We have three boys, and he’s the baby boy,” she said.
“It’s been a long journey this year, and we have been extremely excited.”
Lakeland principal Douglas Wagoner told the graduates, “If you have nothing else, hold on to your integrity.”
Wagoner said his late father used to tell him that his word is the most valuable thing he has and must be guarded, “for it only takes one dishonest event to make it worthless.”
At noon, King’s Fork High School was up. District Superintendent Deran Whitney sought to impart some advice from the pen of Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, who suggests there are two mindsets: fixed and growth.
Most of us have fixed mindsets, Whitney said, and believe we are limited by our talent and intelligence. But, he said, one must strive toward a growth mindset, which believes dedication and hard work are more important.
“Take on the challenge wholeheartedly and learn from your setbacks,” Whitney told the graduates.
King’s Fork valedictorian Sydney Billmeyer told her former classmates they have changed a lot over the past four years, “and we’ll continue to change for the rest of our lives.”
Billmeyer’s advice: “We all have one life to live, and it’s up to us to make it the best life we can.”
Illustrating the point with a story about teaching his son to ride a bike, King’s Fork principal Stenette Byrd III said, “There will be bumps in the road, and they are going to hurt,” but the important thing is to learn and grow.
“Remember you are bulldogs, and bulldogs never quit,” he said.
“Getting back up … that’s what leads to strength, growth and, ultimately, fulfillment.”
Nansemond River High School concluded the trifecta at 3 p.m. Rosalinda Hucks, one of hundreds of proud parents, described it as “wonderful” seeing daughter Leslie Winfield graduate. “She’s the last of the four,” she said.
Valedictorian Richard Hyman III, who said district officials saved the best school for last, packed his speech with pieces of wisdom for the graduates to carry with them through life.
“Life is a series of moments, and what we do in these moments determines our lives,” he said.
Right here, right now is the moment, he said, whether we realize it or not, and he’d rather be “hated for who I am than loved for who I am not.”
“If you want neon-green hair, then by all means, get neon-green hair,” Hyman advised.
Nansemond River principal Thomas McLemore said that what he wanted to say on Saturday finally came to him on Monday night, when his second grandchild was born: a boy, premature at 32 weeks and 4 pounds.
A nurse who took care of him, he said, was a former Nansemond River student. McLemore added, “I thought how grateful I am that a former student took care of my grandchild.”
He said the importance of time dawned upon him as he watched that new little life.
“You will understand when you have children,” McLemore told the young men and women before him, which, he added, was something his father always told him.
“It’s so true.”