A New Hope

Published 3:34 pm Tuesday, June 17, 2014

BUCKINGHAM — There’s one definite certainty that lies ahead of the over 100 Buckingham County High School graduates that received their diplomas on Saturday morning.

It’s the same certainty that cancer survivors Craig Gill, Buckingham’s head football coach, and teachers Janice Penxa and Ryan Peede now know.

A vision seen by the varsity football team that made it all the way to the VHSL 2A state semifinals, where they were defeated.

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A statement created by the high school student council association in the form of a colorful anti-bullying wall for the new, incoming freshmen next fall.

A dream that came to fruition when the maiden Medford League’s basketball team took the highest award in the region, remaining undefeated during the entire season.

A message that division superintendent Dr. Cecil Snead made when he became the first college graduate in his family.

A new hope.

Part IV in George Lucas' Star Wars: A New Hope opens with a rebel ship being boarded by the tyrannical Darth Vader.

The conclusion of the award-winning film is culminated as the rebels make an attack on the empire's most powerful and ominous weapon, the Death Star.

A new hope was created for the fictional rebel fleet, and the same lies ahead for Buckingham’s graduates as they close one book, and open another.

“I’ve struggled with words to say,” noted senior class president Brittany Whittington as she welcomed the seniors and their families. “I thought about just getting up here and saying, ‘Good morning, welcome,’ and leaving. But, that wouldn’t be a very good impression…I’ve come up with a thousand Star Wars references, but I figured I wouldn’t use them…”

They were inferred, and unspoken.

“But, standing here now, seeing all of your faces, I finally know what words to say,” she added.

She related that while eating out with some friends and family recently, she had a “statement of true clarity.”

“Thinking back, if there is anything I learned from Mrs. (Mary) Stearrett…there is an even bigger set of infinite numbers between zero and 720, which is about the number of days we have spent together in this high school,” she related after referencing the infinite amount of numbers between zero and one the math educator taught her.

“When we are older, in looking back, we won’t remember everything that made us laugh until our stomachs hurt, or every Friday night. But we will remember the ones we shared those moments with. Because those moments, and this moment will just be another story someday. But stories are forever. And in this moment, we are infinite,” she concluded.

“I’ve known you for two years now…But, I need you to prepare you for my message right now,” Dr. Snead told the packed gymnasium in a stern tone, opening his speech.

After explaining that he was the first member of his family to attend college, he told the seniors, “No matter what your dreams, are, if they’re military, if they’re workforce, if they’re furthering your education, if they’re going into the ministry…please know you can achieve them, and I hope you will find some parallels in my story to you.”

Snead, a former math teacher, encouraged the students to “reflect often, so you can achieve your goals and be successful in some form of your lives. However, first, you must decide what success means to you.”

In his speech, which he titled Moving Beyond Today, he told the soon-to-be graduates that life would have its delays and unintended routes.

“This is an awesome moment in time,” outgoing high school principal Roger Coleman remarked, following Snead’s speech. “Today, you are taking the long step in life, from being a high school student, to becoming an adult…I have seen you grow physically, emotionally, and mentally. I feel that I have grown with you, and I feel honored to have that experience,” he noted.

“You will have an influence on the entire world. You will produce some of the best doctors, lawyers, teachers, and soldiers,” he added.

Coleman encouraged the graduates to always respect and appreciate those around them, and to continue to develop their talents, along with keeping well both mentally and physically.

“It has truly been an honor and a privilege to serve you as principal.”

“This your day. You are well on your way. You are tried and true…The best part is that it’s up to you. Be all you can be. See all you can see. But through it all, keep your integrity,” the administrator concluded.

Salutatorian Abigail Freed called the event the beginning of a new chapter in her classmates’ lives.

“We have all worked really hard to make it to this day…We have made it, and we are all about to start a new beginning,” she related.

“Throw away that store-bought map, and begin to draw your own,” she quoted. “This ends the first chapter of our lives. So here’s to the next.”

Susannah Jones, the classes’ valedictorian, gave credit to the teachers and staff of the high school, which was followed by a thunderous applause from the students and their families and friends.

Referencing how many students call high school the best four years of their lives, she cited, “In reality, they’re not…We came here to learn…Together, we grew and discovered who we are. We learned that sometimes, it’s okay to fail and make mistakes…”.

“Yes, we made it, but this is just the start of our learning….Regardless of what your plans are, or where you plan to go after high school, you must continue to learn,” she explained, adding that adults should never cease learning.

“Find your passion, seek out knowledge, and never give up,” she said, concluding her comments.

As each graduate’s name was called by school counselors to approach the stage to receive their diploma, a mixture of camera flashes, screams of joy, and tears were evident in the room.

After all of the graduates received their diplomas, they stood silently, eagerly watching Coleman and Whittington, who instructed them on turning their tassels atop their mortar board caps, making them official graduates of Buckingham County High School.

In seconds, their caps filled the air, quickly falling like shooting stars, as their families and friends looked up towards ceiling of the gym.

Making wishes of new hopes for each graduate.