Manns family walking in

As the Manns kids, Safarii and Taimir, walk into school, Taimon Manns is ready to take their pictures. China Martin is carrying Taiyon Manns.

Martinsville High School seniors said they were feeling sentimental about their “last first day,” as Jaden Carolina put it, while freshmen were ready to take on new freedoms and experiences.

Jaden said he woke up cheerful, but the bittersweet realization that this was his last year as a high-schooler hit him as soon as he entered the school’s doors, and then he felt sad about his public school years coming to an end.

“It’s a crazy experience,” James Richardson said. “We are seniors now. We made it. It’s a big accomplishment.”

“It’s emotional walking” into school on the first day as a senior, J’Cari Watkins said.

The three have known each other since kindergarten – and two of them since day care.

Jaden laughed that the way he and J’Cari met was that J’Cari “stole my cookie” when they were little, and they’ve been pals ever since.

“High school’s a place you can come to find yourself and see who you really are. You make life-lasting bonds,” J’Cari said, gesturing toward his two friends.

Milestones they’ve been through include “getting out of middle school” and “making those kinds of grades where you can advance,” James said.

Meanwhile, staying out of trouble was a good milestone for Jaden, he said, and J’Cari looked back on having grown “as a person” during the past years.

J’Cari said he plans “to do better than what I did last year and stay focused.”

Jaden plans to “do good in school but do better on the football field.” He’s also thinking of making a legacy and an impact. “I want to leave something behind for the freshmen,” sophomores and juniors who come after him, he said.

“Be an example” for the younger kids, James said.

There’s also an aura of cool about it: “Now we’re the big dogs,” Jaden said. They should “make every day count as a senior. Don’t take the years that you had back then for granted.”

If he were to give any advice to the younger students, it would be to not worry about what other people think about them but rather to “focus on coming in here, getting what you want done to start your life.”

“People don’t realize how serious it is” to keep up with their classes, James said.

“It’s hard to re-do some of these classes” if one doesn’t do well in them the first time, J’Cari said.

Looking back at the past three years, Jaden said he has learned that “freshman year is a light year. You can just chill.” It gets a little tougher during the sophomore year, then “junior year, English 11 — Oh my God! That man [the teacher] don’t play.”

Meanwhile, freshmen who got together to talk about entering high school didn’t have nearly that much to say.

“I feel like more grown,” said Ashlynn Patten. Walking through the high school doors “is kind of nerve-wracking.”

Betzaida Hernandez brushed it off: “It’s just kind of school, I guess,” she said.

Ashlynn said her goal is to get good grades, be successful and be graduated, and Betzaida said she has the SOL’s in mind.

Same thing for him, Matthew Gilbert added.

Ashlynn is looking forward to seeing new people – the older students she would have been in elementary and middle school with years ago but largely had forgotten. Matthew is looking forward to “more freedom to do stuff.”

The girls are planning to join HOSA (Health Occupations of America); Ashlynn has her eye on becoming a nurse, and Betzaida would like to become a pediatrician.

Matthew’s goals are more immediate: Get into governor’s school and take dual enrollment coursework with Patrick Henry Community College “to make it easier for later.” Eventually, he probably would look into studying to be an engineer.

“I remember saying, as a freshmen, ‘I can’t wait to be a senior,’” Jaden said.

“It goes by quick,’” James said.

Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.

Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.

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