It was an afternoon of celebration, hope and remembrance at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center on Friday as principals from the four Raleigh County high schools read aloud the names of 57 seniors who will be graduating summa cum laude this spring.
The students were presented with certificates by Raleigh Schools Superintendent David Price and greeted by Raleigh Board of Education President Rick Snuffer and board members Dr. Charlotte Hutchens, Larry Ford, Cindy Jafary and Jack "Gordie" Roop.
As seniors and their parents enjoyed a buffet dinner, they discussed their future plans, college goals and upcoming vacations.
Shady Spring High School seniors Alexis Coalson and Brooklyn Meador, both 18, were recently able to persuade their parents to send them on a trip to Disney World in Orlando, Fla., with help from a PowerPoint presentation that compared the innocence of Mickey Mouse ears with the reported hijinks that go on at beaches during senior trips.
When the girls leave this morning for Orlando, it will likely be their last trip together as high school classmates. In the fall, their roads will fork. Meador will head to West Virginia University to study chemical engineering on a path to medical school. Coalson chose at the last minute to abandon earlier plans of attending WVU. Instead, she'll start at Marshall University, with a long-term goal of becoming an intervention radiologist.
The young women each had attitudes that helped make them successful in high school.
"Stay true to yourself," said Meador. "Always work hard."
Coalson recommended an adventurous spirit to those who are just entering high school.
"Don't be afraid to branch out and explore the different clubs high school has to offer," she said. "Just make sure to always do your work and try to study.
"Make sure you do everything you need to do to be successful."
A Shady Spring High classmate, Emily Akers, provided entertainment at the luncheon. A performer with the local Christian rock group Scarlett Thread, Akers loves music but plans to major in psychology and multi-disciplinary studies that emphasize American government, politics and international studies at WVU. Her long-term goal is to become a lawyer, she said.
A first-generation college student, Akers is a recipient of the prestigious Bucklew Scholarship.
She said setting clear priorities and working hard in "every single aspect of your life" is the key to success.
"Make sure your priorities are lined up," Akers advised high school students. "You set the goal. There are going to be so many distractions.
"You need to get your priorities straight," she added. "The other thing is to work hard in everything you do, not just at school, not just your relationships with other people, but in every single aspect of your life because that's what's really going to get you successful and where you want to be in life."
In his address to parents and students, Price noted the swirling thoughts and emotions that surface around the time of a high school graduation.
"It's amazing to hear the goals you've set for yourselves," Price said. "For parents, this is a time of nervousness and planning and reminiscing ... a good time, an exciting time.
"Stay focused," Price urged students. "There will be many obstacles in front of you ... Stay the course."
Raleigh schools spokesman Dave Traube released the names of the Class of 2015 Superintendent's Senior Scholars, and principals from each school read the names of the scholars.
Independence High Class of 2015 Superintendent's Senior Scholars and their colleges were announced by Independence High Principal John Henry: Adrianna Cook (Marshall), Stephanie Fletcher, Cody Jarrett (Marshall), Carl Lilly Jr. (Concord University), Kendall Meadows (Marshall), Sarah Mitchem (WVU), Ryan Shumate (Liberty University), Hope Wood (Concord) and Sean Worix (WVU, Bucklew Scholarship). Fletcher was listed by Traube but not announced at the event.
Liberty High Class of 2015 Superintendent's Senior Scholars, announced by Liberty High Principal Rocky Cangemi: Emily Allen (Concord), Hannah Basham (Marshall), Morgan Birchfield (Erma Byrd Center), Aleisha Drafton (Concord), Hannah Milam (Marshall), Austin Roop (Marshall), Steven Snuffer, Morgan Workman (WVU)
Shady Spring High Principal Daniel Moye announced the 2015 Shady Spring High Class of 2015 Superintendent's Senior Scholars: Emily Akers (WVU, Bucklew Scholar), Makayla Bailey (Marshall), Jacob Bennett (Marshall), Allyson Carter (Bluefield College in Virginia), Steven Chhabra (University of California-Berkeley), Alexis Coalson (Marshall), Courtney Cook (Warner University), Tyra Cook (Warner University), Haley Craig (WVU), Brianna Duckworth (Liberty University), Nicole Fama (WVU), Taylor Fama (WVU), Allison Fritz (WVU), Jordan Harvey (WVU), Josef Heller (WVU), Jacqueline Higgins (WVU), Mariam Khan (WVU), Casey Killmer (WVU), Brooklyn Meador (WVU), Keegan Mueller (WVU), Hannah Painter (Concord), Taylor Stewart (Marshall), Farhaan Syed (WVU), Nathan Williams (WVU), Seneca Williams (WVU).
The Woodrow Wilson High Class of 2015 Superintendent's Senior Scholars was announced by Woodrow Wilson Principal Ron Cantley: Rosalynn Andrade (WVU, Bucklew Scholarship), Abigail Dameron (currently enrolled at Liberty), Emily Fedders (Appalachian State University), Sarah Harvey (University of Kentucky), Sarah Koh, Angie Qiu (Temple University), Abby Rector (Concord), Alexandria Richards (WVU), Jamie Rose (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill), Adriana Thomas (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University), Ananda Thompson, Steven Treadway (WVU), Delaney Wykle (currently enrolled at WVU).