SOUTHERN LEE HIGH SCHOOL: Friends, family cheer graduates
Southern Lee High School seniors clad in their school colors walked onto the school’s football field Thursday night amid celebratory shouts from their loved ones, who were gathered in the bleachers to watch the commencement ceremony for the class of 2014.
Principal Chris Dossenbach presided over the ceremony and officially pronounced the seniors graduates once they had all walked across the stage.
“They are a hardworking, unique group of kids,” Dossenbach said. “Everyone who walked across that stage deserved it. They were nervous and scared, but everyone did great.”
“I feel old,” said Curtis Hickerson, 17, after he picked up his diploma. Hickerson plans to move to Florida with his girlfriend and study autobody repair.
The celebration was equally, if not more, emotional for the parents in attendance, all of whom were proud of the children, nieces and nephews they had come to support.
“Stay focused, and be yourself,” said Stephen Yarnell to his daughter, Kelsey, who is heading to the U.S. Naval Acadamy’s Nuclear Propulsion and Engineering Corps in October.
Denise and Robert Natty had similar advice for their son, Robert Jordan Natty.
“Take everything you’ve learned, and work hard,” Denise said. “Then have fun.”
“And pay your bills on time,” Robert added.
After Dossenbach acknowledged the faculty, graduates and parents, a number of students got up to address their classmates.
“It’s been a long four years and a short four years,” said Jean-Luc Sambira, a member of the Student Government Association. “Long because of the early mornings and late nights spent doing homework, short because of the lifelong friends and lasting memories we made here.”
Salutatorian Madeline Lutz told her classmates to make the most of each of the 86,400 seconds in every day.
“Although it’s intimidating,” she said, “we cannot wait for this new world we’re about to join. Do not dwell on these moments. I say this not to diminish our time here, but to fuel the fire in each of us to press on and move forward. I have no doubt that every single one of us will seek success.”
Daisy Chang, class of 2014 valedictorian, challenged graduates to take a proactive approach and live with both honesty and compassion.
“Be good,” she said. “Be brave. Take risks. Be passionate. Broaden your horizons. There are many things we won’t miss, but there are many things we will always take with us. So much changes, but someone here has changed your life and shaped who you are.”
Gwen Williams, who has taught Foods 1 and 2 at Southern Lee since it opened in 2005, said she had trouble keeping it together during the ceremony.
“I wish them the best in all that they do,” Williams said. “Most of these kids are getting to be close to my daughter’s age. I’ve seen them grow up. I’ve had some of them all four years they’ve been here. It’s tough to see them go.”
Israel Igbinijesu, whose father came to Sanford from Nigeria, is the first American graduate in his family. Igbinijesu plans to go to Johnson & Wales University to study the culinary arts.
“Make it last, and have fun,” he said when asked what advice he would give to the juniors at Southern Lee. “Reach for the stars.”
The students on the field did just that when Dossenbach told them to turn their tassels, and hundreds of arms reached up at once as a flurry of caps flew into the air.
The graduates smiled as they walked off the field and onto the various paths they planned to trod. Whether attending college, joining the military or heading straight to work, the students of Southern Lee High School all walked together as they said goodbye to the school that helped shape them.