By Sarah Plummer
Every parking space was filled at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center Saturday for Woodrow Wilsonâ€™s 85th commencement ceremony. Cars lined Armory Drive and parked in median grass. Without even entering the venue, it was evident many friends and family members came to support the 323 graduates of 2011.
Although the crowd had gathered to praise the studentsâ€™ achievements, each speaker at the event expressed gratitude to those in attendance â€” family, teachers and friends â€” who supported them through their education.
Valedictorian Sania Rahim said she and her peers had â€œmatured together.â€
She asked her fellow students to remember their families and the many sacrifices that allowed the graduates to be where they are today.
She also requested that they acknowledge their teachers.
â€œThey have seen us at our best and our worst,â€ Rahim said.
Salutatorian Emily Wright said the class has â€œspent the last 13 years heading toward their future.â€
And after asking those present to think back on their first day of school, she told them what she has learned most was â€œto enjoy today while it lasts because the last 13 years have passed in a flash.â€
Wright noted that each graduate has the opportunity to leave a mark on the world, â€œwhether they become president of the United States or just volunteer locally.â€
Another life lesson Wright said she has learned over the years is that â€œevery bad experience is a chance to do better and learn from your mistakes.â€
And finally, she said, she has learned, â€œsome things do not have price tags â€” like love, honor freedom and peace.â€
Woodrow Wilson High Schoolâ€™s 2011 honorarian is Tyler Bonnett.
Graduating seniors Leah Drumheller, Rebekah Stone and Morgan Wright sang â€œIâ€™ll Always Remember Youâ€ with guitar accompaniment as a special musical selection.
Before presenting the senior class to Superintendent Charlotte Hutchens, principal Charles Maynard said his students achieved their recognition with â€œhard work,â€ and he asked them to leave knowing they had reached a great accomplishment.
â€œAnd I hope and pray that you continue to work hard to reach your goals.â€
Hutchens added that, even though she has attended many graduations, she still enjoys them.
â€œI like graduations because itâ€™s a time of excitement, anticipation and hope,â€ she said.
Board members Richard Jarrell and Jack Roop participated in the presentation of diplomas. Board member Larry Ford and Nelson Spencer, director of secondary education, were also present.