Hanover’s four senior classes graduated Saturday at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Siegel Center, where each class said goodbye to their years spent in high school and looked forward to the future.
“We can look at the end as a new beginning,” said Jasmine L. Zollar, Atlee’s senior class president.
Zollar told her peers they were leaving behind a lot, but they can take their dreams and Raider pride with them. She stressed the importance of living life to the fullest, one of the many themes permeating the morning’s speeches during Atlee High School’s graduation — making the most of life.
“It really does seem like yesterday that you stepped on that big yellow bus,” said Superintendent of Schools Jamelle Wilson.
Wilson remarked how “in a blink of an eye” those same students were walking out of their last day of their senior year of high school. She pointed out that time is fleeting so students must prioritize their time well and know what is most important in their lives.
She ended her speech with “YOLO,” a common saying that stands for “you only live once.”
“Invest your time in what matters most,” Wilson told the graduating class.
The Atlee class of 2014 earned more than $2 million in scholarships. Forty students were International Baccalaureate graduates and 119 were Hanover scholars, meaning they maintained certain grades and GPAs as well as other criteria during their time in high school.
While many were looking to the future, Atlee’s valedictorian, Jonathan A. Willing, looked to the past. Willing found his grandfather’s valedictorian speech from 1938 and listed the many differences and similarities between the two graduating classes.
Willing said his grandfather’s speech was written on a typewriter and had notes in the margins; his was neatly printed out after being typed up on a computer. Also, both classes were coming out of troubled economic times.
He pointed out that his grandfather’s class went on to fight in World War II and accomplish many things in their lifetime, calling the class of 1938 the “greatest generation.”
“Why can’t we become the next greatest generation?” Willing asked his peers.
Lee-Davis’ valedictorian threw a different spin on his speech. Robert Courter IV busted out in song, playing “Let It Go” from the animated Disney film, Frozen, on a recorder.
Courter emphasized the importance of always being true to oneself throughout life. He told his peers to always be themselves.
“We are adults. We are ready for the future and we will change the world,” Courter said.
The school principal, Carol Moore, announced the classes’ success. Moore said 120 of the students were in the National Honor Society and 26 are International Baccalaureate candidates while 44 received the IB certificate.
During the course of the year, Lee-Davis seniors took 322 Advanced Placement tests.
The 2014 Lee-Davis graduates also earned more than $3 million in scholarships.
“Students, your future is bright and possibilities abound,” Moore told the class.
Moore added that she is confident in the graduating class, but she left them with a few tips of advice: Give 100 percent every day; treat everyone you meet with respect; always choose the better way; and enjoy life.
Hanover High School’s salutatorian thinks highly of her peers in the school’s graduating class, noting though that some people look down on their generation because of how they rely on digital communication.
“I disagree with these people,” said Allison Parcell.
Parcell said Hanover’s class of 2014 proved them wrong because they’ve all come together and achieved many things. She pointed out how theyworked on a service project to raise money for a Hanover High alumnus and said that her class was not self-centered.
“We’re the ones making necessary changes,” she said.
Valedictorian Divya Patel told his peers that graduation was the celebration for all of their hard work the past four years. He, too, believes in his peers.
“Guys, we can change the world,” Patel said.
He encouraged his classmates to do the best they can and to keep an open mind.
“Don’t stick to the same music and try to understand the music others like and why,” Patel said.
Principal Dana Gresham pointed out all that the class has done during their time at Hanover.
“We recognize your service and that you’re a class that gives back,” Gresham said.
The class earned $1.2 million in scholarships and grant money and 82 students were Hanover Scholars.
John Connock, Patrick Henry’s salutatorian, dared his class to push themselves, challenge themselves and others. By achieving this class ranking, Connock beat his brother in academic standing, who in his class was ranked fourth.
Without realizing it, Connock said his brother challenged him and pushed him academically.
He said it is his classmates’ turn now.
“I dare you to accept [the challenge],” Connock told his classmates.
Connock’s class earned more than $2.9 million in scholarships and there were 66 Hanover Scholars. Principal Dr. Wanda Bibb expressed her pride in the class and she said the purpose of graduations is to unite everyone.
“Today we’re all members of the Patrick Henry High School community,” Bibb said. “We belong.”
“I am a better person for getting to know all of you,” she added.
During valedictorian Amy Dunham’s five-minute speech, she compared the journey through school to sailing.
Dunham said that in elementary school, everyone was on little boats trying to navigate the waters and occasionally getting help from teachers along the way.
In middle school, things got tougher.
“[The] seas got a little rough,” Dunham said.
Boats started rocking and some people scrapped their boats completely, because they were trying to find themselves and figure life out.
In high school, each started to perfect their boat.
“Now we are about to leave our safe ports,” Dunham said.
She added that at each new port where a sailboat may stop, there will be a chance to better their ships because high school has given them the skills to do so and to do more.
“Explore. Dream,” she said.
Reached after Saturday’s ceremonies, School Board Chairman Bob Hundley Jr., Chickahominy District representative, had this to say to the graduating class of 2014: “The Hanover County Public Schools’ mission statement includes the quality of education for lifelong success. My encouragement to the class of 2014 is, and I’m going to borrow from Winston Churchill, ‘To never, ever, ever, ever give up trying to learn.’”
In this year’s graduating high school class, the class sizes were fairly close: 370 at Patrick Henry High School, 339 at Hanover High School, 396 at Lee-Davis High School and 328 at Atlee High School.