‘Let’s make it count’

Published 1:26 pm Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Fuqua School’s 40 graduates celebrated their class’ accomplishments and looked ahead to their futures during the school’s 25th graduation ceremony Friday.

Sitting underneath cool, shaded trees, family members watched as graduates walked across the courtyard, and later, walked across the stage to receive their diplomas.

Commencement speaker, the Hon. Donald Blessing, who graduated from Fuqua School, or Prince Edward Academy in 1973 and currently serves as the presiding judge for the 10th Judicial Circuit of Virginia, spoke about the lessons he learned in the school’s debate program and the lessons that he learned out of school that have served him.

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Describing the debate program, which was taught by Nancy Anderson Haga, Blessing said the class motivated him to pursue his career in law.

Blessing offered five fundamentals for success, including knowing one’s strengths, weaknesses and goals; prioritizing relationships with friends, family members, role models and those one can be a good example; having a strong work ethic in all areas of life and to believe in something.

He encouraged students to prioritize hard work, but be adaptable when things change.

“Never be afraid to go off-script,” Blessing said. “It’s nice to have a plan. I’ll tell you what a plan is for, an outline is for: an outline is that security blanket that you can come back to so that you have the freedom to do things that are not on that list. You have to try different things.”

He also encouraged students to embrace and learn from failures.

“They never tell about the issues where they failed. But when you get one to admit they learned more from that failure than that success,” Blessing said.

Salutatorian Jamie Carkenord described her classmates’ and their work, including volunteering at Fuqua’s lower school, volunteering with animals at a veterinarian office, athletic accomplishments and working as first responders.

“Fuqua has changed, and we have changed with it, but it will be the constants that we remember,” Carkenord said, who will be attending the University of Richmond. “The constant support of a teacher or coach as we struggle and succeeded. The knowledge that even though we are graduating tonight, we’ll have a community to belong to and to come back to.”

Valedictorian Morgan Lindsay said while members of the graduating class are leaving the school, she said their impact will continue to remain at the school. She noted that the class has exceeded the scholarship record, collectively receiving more than $10.1 million in scholarship.

Lindsay wrote personal notes to each graduating student, which she taped under their chairs, “Oprah-style.”

“You have inspired me because of how multifaceted you are,” Lindsay said, who will be attending Randolph-Macon College. “Because there is not a single one of us that fits into only one of these categories. You do not let yourselves be defined by labels, choosing instead to take charge of your own narrative and be completely, unapologetically, yourselves.”

Quoting a message from her boss from Westview on the James, a camp at Goochland she volunteered, Lindsay said, “Right here, right now, is the only opportunity these people will be together in this place, at this time, for this reason, so what are we waiting for? Let’s make it count.”

Giftorian Claire Watson, who will be attending the University of Virginia, noted that the Class of 2018 have donated funds for new bleachers in the gymnasium.

Following the ceremony, graduates and families moved into the gymnasium, where they heard reflections and watched a slideshow about the Class of 2018.