Ferrum College, George Mason University, Old Dominion University, the College of William and Mary, University of Virginia-Wise, Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Tech each have different campuses, programs and student bodies, but they all share one common thread: Each will welcome Martinsville and Henry County students this fall.
As the school year quickly draws to a close — graduations are this weekend for most area high schools — the officers from the senior classes at Martinsville High School, Magna Vista High School and Bassett High School are thinking ahead to the beginning of their college careers.
These seniors soon will embark on a great journey, and in a few short years they will emerge from college in just a few short years as an accountant, noodle shop owner, doctor, biomedical engineer, dermatologist and political and legal professionals.
But they also pause to look back at their gilded moments of the past four years, and we talked to some of them about those accomplishments and the lessons to pay forward to the classes behind them.
At Bassett, some of the senior class officers said that sports events created the top highlights of their high school years.
A senior night softball victory over Franklin County High School last season quickly became a fond memory for Erin Nelson, class historian.
“Franklin County had a really good team last year, and when we played them there, they slaughtered us,” Nelson said. “It felt really good to beat them here on our senior night and cancer night. We won on a walk-off.”
Sydney Clark, class historian, enjoyed the night last semester when BHS beat Magna Vista in football.
“It was a big moment in our football program, to show all Mr. [Brandon] Johnson has done for it,” Clark said. “It shows a great deal for our school because it’s a big rivalry.”
Class President Ashtyn Gammons also is a cheerleader, and she said her favorite moment in high school occurred right after a big game.
“My favorite memory was senior night for football this year because we went out to eat as a cheer team,” she said. “They gave us a big collage of photos from throughout the years that I’ve been cheering. It was super emotional, and it made me realize how much I’m going to miss my team.”
At MVHS, many happy memories occurred in extracurricular activities.
Madison Stowe, class president, said that one of the best moments of her high school career occurred last year, when she, as a newcomer to the school, participated in the theatrical performance, “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”
“It was my first real sense of inclusion at the school,” Stowe said. “Mr. [Bryan] Dunn and the class really made me feel like Magna Vista was my home.”
Carly Jackson, class secretary, said she enjoyed taking on leadership opportunities in various clubs.
Peter Nguyen, class treasurer, also said he liked taking on leadership roles, like organizing events such as the pep rally and spirit week.
“It gave me a great feeling of responsibility and accountability,” Nguyen said. “It made me feel more grown.”
Taylar Brown, class president at Martinsville High School, said that she had many wonderful memories, but one of her favorites occurred when she first acclimated to freshman life.
“Just adjusting to a new school. Coming from the middle school, things were so calm,” Brown said. “At first we were clueless freshmen, then sophisticated sophomores, then juniors to graduating seniors. It’s all just one big memory.”
While there are many things Brown said she will miss about MHS, there’s one thing that stands out above the rest.
“I’ll miss the friendships and relationships I’ve built with my friends and teachers,” Brown said.
And she said she especially would miss her Algebra II teacher, Mark Toole.
“I had Mr. Toole in ninth grade, and I wrote a paper about him for the Big M ceremony,” Brown said, noting a year-end awards event at which top students honor the teachers who influenced them most. “He inspired me to actually work for my grade.”
At Magna Vista, both Nguyen and Jackson expressed that they would miss the level of comfort they felt at the school. Stowe named a particular experience.
“I’m going to miss ACE Academy [Accelerated College Education Academy] because our group was very close, and the classes were interesting,” Stowe said.
Bassett students echoed the sentiment, saying they would miss their friends and relationships they built throughout their high school years.
“I think I’m going to miss my yearbook family a lot, because they’ve been a crucial part of my senior year. We’re all very close,” said Myiah Terry, class vice president. “I’ll miss the ability to connect with people because we won’t be so close all the time in college like we are for eight hours per day in high school.”
“I’m going to miss sporting events and cheerleading because its pretty much all I’ve known for the past five years. It’s going to be very strange not being on the football field every Friday night,” Gammons said. “I’ll miss Governor’s School too because of how close I am with all of the students there and how we help each other so much and how the teachers are so supportive.”
As these students embarked upon their new journeys, they offered meaningful advice to their peers. Graduates from Bassett encouraged both underclassmen and their fellow seniors.
“To underclassmen, don’t take this for granted. It’s going to hit you a lot sooner than you want it to. Don’t worry about the little things,” Clark said. “To my fellow seniors, always come back home. We all have to come back sooner or later. Thank you for the memories, laughs and moments I’ll cherish forever.”
Said Nelson: “To underclassmen, cherish the moments and go to the activities that you can. Enjoy the pep rallies and don’t try to rush your time in high school. To my graduating class, thanks for all the years. Stay safe and don’t lose yourself.”
Said Terry: “Underclassmen, join clubs. It gets you out there and gets you social — it’s where you’ll find people. For seniors, write your own story.”
Said Gammons: “For the underclassmen, I would say cherish your time here as much as possible. Although you may not believe that it flies by, it does – and the next thing you know, it’s over. To the seniors, I want to say in the words of Dr. [Nina] Huff to own whatever you do and just always try to be successful no matter how hard it might be.”
Magna Vista students also had words of advice and encouragement for their peers who will walk the same halls next year that the seniors soon will leave behind.
Jackson challenged underclassmen to set goals, even if they seemed farfetched.
“I wasn’t originally planning on running because I didn’t think I was going to win the class secretary title, but I would encourage everyone to try for things they want to do – you never know what you’re capable of,” Jackson said.
Nguyen and Stowe gave practical advice to assist students not only in high school, but they also encouraged them look toward the future.
“Even starting at ninth grade, don’t treat classes like they aren’t important — don’t goof off. Your GPA is cumulative, and each credit really adds up and matters,” Stowe said.
“When you enter high school, don’t magnify every situation you’re in. Try not to take everything so seriously. Don’t be so hard on yourself and don’t waste the opportunities that come your way,” Nguyen said.
“Make the best of your high school,” Brown said, “because your future is near.” Brown said.