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BHS graduates Class of 2021 on football field

As the sun rose over Centennial Field Saturday morning, the Bainbridge High School Class of 2021 celebrated their graduation, moving from one phase of their life to the next.

The opening procession was led by Principal Roy Matthews, Superintendent Tim Cochran, and members of the Board of Education, after which Garyn King led the moment of quiet reflection. The Air Force JROTC presented the colors, with Viviana Schuyler leading the Pledge of Allegiance, and Piper Loeffler performing the National Anthem.

After the Anthem, Emma Briggs took to the podium, dedicating the graduation to the late coach Heith Maxwell.

“We send out prayers to the family of Heith Maxwell,” she said. “He was beloved by his athletes, who he loyally led with an iron fist, as well as his students, who he instilled with not only essential learning standards, but also lessons about hard work and determination… As we trod on, we remember a quote that you could have caught Coach Maxwell telling his students or athletes: ‘We must overcome difficulties, rather than being overcome by them.’”

Corbin Austin followed up, delivering the welcoming address. He gave a summary of the class’ journey to graduation, from birth to graduation, recounting all the school mile-markers they experienced along the way.

“Next thing you know,” he said, pivoting toward a future focus, “we’re at BHS, where the last four years flew by, until that four years became three years, then two, then one, then zero. Zero, we are here. Zero, we are done. Zero, we’re at the end of the line. But zero is not the end. Zero is the beginning. Because after zero, there is one step in front of the other, two eyes looking forward, 322 people are here today who did it.”

He concluded on that note, “So I welcome you all, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, teachers, miracles. You have witnessed us grow, nourished by your encouraging light and guarded by your guidance and wisdom… I welcome you all not to the end, not to the finale, not to zero. I welcome you to one. The new beginning.”

Honor graduates Gracie Sellars and Jack Burke then proceeded to individually announce their fellow Honor graduates. Afterwards, Superintendent Cochran and School Board Chairman Keith Lyle honored the valedictorian and salutatorian for this year, Joshua Robinson and Kaitlin Floyd respectively. After this, they presented the Mary Davis Pilot Club Award, followed by the Earl Carr Gragg Award, with Viviana Schuler receiving the former, and Corbin Austin receiving the latter.

Carter Worthington took to the stage next, delivering the senior speech. He proceed to thank those who had helped the class throughout high school, from parents to teachers. “I’d like to say thank you to all the parents in the crowd for pushing us, sometimes literally, to get out of bed every morning, get ready, go to school, and provide us with everything we need to get us here,” he said. “Thank you teachers, for discovering new ways to present and explain information, to not only help with our academics, but also prepare us for life after high school.” He continued,” And last, but definitely not least, friends, thank you for providing the best memories one could ask for.”

He went on to talk about the impending change in each of their lives. “While the uncertainties can seem daunting, I’ve slowly begun to realize that sometimes, change isn’t always negative. President John F. Kennedy once said, ‘Change is the law of life, and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.’ …The earlier you can start embracing change and adapting to your environment, the more successful you will be.”

Floyd followed up to deliver her salutatorian address. “I know I’m expected to stand here and deliver a speech about how happy we all are to be here at 9:00 in the morning in Jedi robes under the South Georgia sun just to receive a piece of paper. But realistically, who wants to be here?” she said. “What an opportunity we have to be here today, to receive this piece of paper, and we may sit here the whole time only thinking about the heat, or the bugs or what we’re gonna have for lunch. In my eyes, life is nothing but a collection of opportunities and how we respond to them. Today I want to focus on making the most of every opportunity we may encounter, even those that push us beyond our comfort zone. Especially those.”

Floyd went on to recount how drama teacher Leigh Powell had coaxed her out of her shyness and into reevaluating herself. “Had I not taken that opportunity to completely reevaluate myself, I might not be up here in front of you today… Once we say no to something, it will not circle back around to us. Once doors are shut, they usually lock… I dug deep into Bainbridge High School, and found every door I could shove open, whether it wanted to open for me or not.”

As she drew to a close, she reminded the students of the opportunities others around them, saying, “We are all sitting here today because someone chose to use their opportunities to help us. So return the favor, and make sure to dedicate yourself to those around you.”

Joshua Robinson took to the stage last to deliver his valedictorian speech. “I’ve always been able to deal with just about any situation I find myself in. I can roll with the punches, and work with whatever hand I’m dealt… but I can only do this if I know why.” He continued, “Whether you’re flexible in situations like I am or not, we all ask ourselves these ‘why’ questions. Like, ‘Why did we lose the big game? We were better than the other team.’ ‘Why did Grandma pass away? She was doing so well lately.’ ‘Why is this class so hard for me? I study everyday.’ ‘Why did COVID happen to us and why to our senior year?’ ‘Why is Mr. Sewell’s hair line receding so quickly?’”

He went on to talk about answering such questions, “Oftentimes, the questions that we want and need answers to the most, are the ones to which we never find the answers. Sometimes there are no answers to find. But I want to reassure you that while you can’t always find the answers, you can always find consolation, and this is what I call inner peace.”

Robinson went on to describe his peace, saying, “My peace doesn’t let me worry. My peace doesn’t let things get in the way of my goals, and my purpose. Now what brings me peace may be what can bring you yours, or may not be. But it doesn’t matter what brings me peace, what matters is what brings you yours. And regardless of what that is, you’ve got to find it and cling to it, because I believe we all need peace. And that is what I want to leave you graduates with.”

After the valedictorian speech, Principal Mathews presented the class with their diplomas, followed by  Floyd leading the alma mater. The class then turned their tassels, as Principal Matthews presented them as the Graduating Class of 2021.