As families and friends assembled for the graduation ceremony Saturday morning at the Bassett High School football stadium, a song playing on the public address system was especially fitting: Kenny Chesney’s “Don’t Blink.”
The song talks about how life goes by quickly, a sentiment Michael Sizemore of Richmond knows well. After the ceremony, Sizemore held graduate Lauren Anderson a few feet off the ground and in his arms as other family members snapped pictures. Sizemore, Lauren’s first cousin, said he remembers when she was born.
“The sky is the limit” for her, he said of her future.
“I’m speechless,” Lauren, of Collinsville, said when asked how she felt about graduating. “I’m so proud of everybody.”
She plans to go to Patrick Henry Community College for two years to study early childhood education and then transfer to a four-year college. She aspires to become a kindergarten teacher.
Bassett’s 285 graduates included 10 summa cum laude graduates, 20 magna cum laude graduates, 46 cum laude graduates, 169 graduates who earned advanced diplomas and 42 who earned associate degrees recently at PHCC through dual enrollment.
Senior Class President Caleb Lester said the class motto dealt with “the power of our differences,” with seniors having different talents, dreams and destinations, but with the same power to make a new tomorrow.
The top four seniors academically also spoke (in no particular academic ranking order): Travis Koger, about “Different Talents”; Carla Lackey, “Different Dreams”; Orion Bye, “Different Destinations”; and Rohit Lalchandani, “Same Power.”
Koger quoted filmmaker George Lucas as saying, “Everybody has talent. It's just a matter of moving around until you've discovered what it is.” Koger added, “Your talent was given to you for a reason. Don’t let it go to waste.” He told graduates talent is not the only thing they need. “You also need desire.”
Lackey gave several examples of graduates’ different dreams and aspirations. “No dream is outside your reach,” she said. “There is a greater beyond for all of us.”
Bye said, “The future can be anything we want it to be. We all have potential.” He advised graduates not to let anyone dissuade them from pursuing their dreams and urged them to make good choices and “to hold on to what separates you from the crowd.”
Lalchandani told the graduates they have an opportunity “to make the world what we want it to be and to be whatever we want to be.” He quoted Apple Computer co-founder Steve Jobs as saying, “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”
The speakers also praised faculty, administrators, parents, as well as their classmates.
John Gibbs, completing his first year as Bassett High School principal, said: “This year was a learning experience for me.” He praised students “for being the most well-behaved young people I have worked with.” He advised graduates to make choices that allow them to grow and improve, make life better for other people and to enjoy the journey.
Gibbs announced that graduating seniors have been awarded more than $1.3 million in scholarships.
Gibbs also honored Trevor Martin for not missing a day of school in 13 years.
Graduates hurled their caps into the air after the ceremony ended.
In an interview, class President Caleb Lester called graduation “a milestone. ... It’s the first step to your future.”
Teachers and students are what he will miss most about BHS, he said. The biggest challenges for him have been being a leader and calculus, he added.
Graduate Emily Cowher of Collinsville said she will miss her friends most.
Her mother, Ginger Hines, said Emily had been ready to get out of school until the last week or so, when she got sentimental and teary-eyed at times. “We’re so proud” of her, Hines said,
Emily plans to attend PHCC and study nursing and then transfer to a four-year college.
Graduate Tahira Scales of Martinsville said, “It’s a big accomplishment for all of us.” She praised seniors for working hard and parents for being supportive of them. She plans to attend PHCC and then transfer to a four-year school.
Kathy Harper said she was “very proud” of her daughter, graduate Tiffani Harper.
Tiffani said she felt “great,” that graduation is a big accomplishment, and, “It’s a blessing from God to have this opportunity (some) others didn’t have.” She said she plans to attend Ferrum College and then transfer to Jefferson College of Health Sciences. She aspires to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist.
Henry County Schools Superintendent Jared Cotton was doing double-duty: handing out diplomas to graduates and being a supportive dad. His daughter, Michaela, was an honor graduate, earned an associate degree and attended Piedmont Governor’s School.
“It’s a good feeling. I’m so proud,” Jared Cotton said. He said Michaela had a good experience at BHS, got a good education and students who come after her will as well.
Michaela said she hugged her dad when she got her diploma. She said she’s close to him and wants to be like him. She added that she will miss the people most at BHS and that she made best friends there.
She said she is “excited a lot about the future.” She will be attending the University of Virginia and is undecided on her major, her father said.
The superintendent said the graduations at Bassett and Magna Vista high schools were broadcast live on the school division’s website through live streaming. Video highlights are on the website.