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SPS summer graduation brief but sweet

The summer graduation ceremony may be shorter, but it was no less sweet for the class of 2021 from Suffolk’s three public high schools who walked across the King’s Fork High School stage Aug. 5 to receive their diplomas.

More than 60 graduates from King’s Fork, Lakeland and Nansemond River high schools received their diplomas during the 30-minute ceremony in a packed auditorium filled with masked graduates and boisterous and proud parents, family and friends cheering them on.

“Well, class of 2021, you can officially relax because you made it,” Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III said to graduates during his commencement address, eliciting loud cheers and applause from the graduates and their families in attendance.

Of the seniors in summer school, 97% of them graduated and were at the ceremony, Gordon said.

He acknowledged “the 13 long hard years” of school to get to the point of graduating, but said there’s more out there for the graduates, and he issued them a challenge.

“Do not stop here,” Gordon said. “Promise me today that you will continue to further your education, your training, or do whatever it takes to develop your skills.”

He said those graduating in the summer should feel no less worthy than those who graduated in June.

“I do not want any of you to look down at yourselves because you are graduating this summer,” Gordon said. “The main thing is, you graduated.”

After sustained applause, he told them, “And trust me, in 10 or 20 years from now, nobody’s going to remember anyway.” After some laughter, he added that “they will just all know that you are the class of 2021.”

He said they all had the skills to do whatever they want to do in life, but he still had several pieces of advice for the graduates.

“Number one, set some goals, and a timeline to complete them,” Gordon said. “After you finish celebrating this weekend for this great accomplishment, write down what your next steps will be. Post it somewhere, keep it in your phone. Do whatever you need to to keep it fresh in your mind.

“Number two, move out of your parents’ house.”

After more laughs and applause, Gordon told graduates that they should not be 25 to 30 years old and still be at home.

“While you are in school or starting a new job, it’s OK,” Gordon said. “But in order for you to really grow, you need to step out on your own. Show that you are grown and continue to be the successful person that I know all of you will be.”

His third piece of advice is for graduates to talk to younger siblings, friends and neighbors about their experiences.

One by one, the graduates then walked the stage to pick up their diplomas, turn their tassels and then greet their families and friends with hugs and smiles, documenting the experience with a plethora of photos, many lingering as the day’s light began to fade.

“We are so proud of you,” Gordon said. “Please go off and do great things, represent yourselves, your families, Suffolk Public Schools and the city of Suffolk to the best of your ability.”