Schley County graduates now ready to make their mark on the world

Published 12:55 pm Monday, June 5, 2023

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AMERICUS – On Saturday morning, June 3, in front of a capacity crowd at the GSW Storm Dome, 93 Schley County seniors completed an 18-year scholastic journey and began the next chapter of their lives when they turned their tassels and became the Schley County Graduating Class of 2023.

In his opening remarks to the graduates, Schley County School Superintendent Brian Hall talked about former CBS News journalist Dan Rather and his experience as a teenager working in the oil fields of Texas and that the values of hard work and tenacity that he learned while working in the oil fields would later serve him well as one of America’s greatest new journalists. Hall added that the Class of 2023 would need to have that same dedication, hard work and tenacity in whatever fields they choose in life and that there are jobs readily available to them in this present day economy and to not be scared of the work.

Salutatorian Grace Layman gives her Salutatorian address at Schley County’s graduation.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

Hall also told the graduates that he remembered them during their days back in elementary school and that the time had flown by so fast, but he added that as he was looking through the individual photos of each graduate, he began to pair the talents with the individual photos from academics to athletics, from expertise with digital technology to music, from communication skills to collaboration and came to the conclusion that the Class of 2023 has a lot to bring to the table. He added that his memory of the Class of 2023 included images of “our successes”. “Our is the key word here because what I think the Class of 2023 has done so well is that you’ve pulled together to celebrate each other’s successes,” Hall said. He went on to give an example of what he was talking about by describing a three-minute video put together by a group of Schley County students, nearly all of them seniors. In that video, the characters chosen were as unique as the personalities of the students who participated. The video was so well done that it won eight 1,000 scholarships right there in the Storm Dome. “Was it because it was good? It was good,” Hall said. “But in my opinion, it was a little more than that. It was because you could see that they came together. They worked to make it happen.” Hall went on to remind the graduates that as they leave Schley County High School to remember that three-minute video and that they will need others who are different from them with different interest and different skill sets to help them in whatever vocation they choose.

“Guys, you can be the generation that takes the lead,” Hall told the graduates. “Do not shy away from what is needed. The tasks for the days and weeks ahead are not for those who are week in spirit, nor is it for those who are complacent in their day to day activities.” He went on to say that the life lessons the graduates will learn will make them more well-rounded and better prepared when their dream job becomes available.

Schley County graduate Owen Lamb receives his diploma.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

In her salutatory address, Salutatorian Grace Layman first mentioned that this is not the end, but only the beginning and challenged her classmates to take advantage of the opportunities that are there before them. She also challenged them to guard against apathy. “Apathy is a lack of enthusiasm, interest or concern,” Layman said. “But to put it simply, it’s not caring, especially when we need to.” Layman went on to say that the upcoming years will be some of the most formative and that they cant let them slip away. She also added that she has a list of regrets of the things that she did not try or get involved in not because she was scared to try them, but because she didn’t care. “I couldn’t be bothered to put in the effort. I procrastinated,” Layman said. “I said ‘someone else will take care of it and then all of a sudden, I missed out on all the opportunities I wanted to take. I look back and I wish I had done that thing or got to know that person, signed up for that trip or asked if that person was ok.”

She went on to list other regrets that she has of things she didn’t do due to apathy and acknowledged that her classmates probably have similar regrets as well.

Schley County graduate Lucas Williams poses for a picture after graduation.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

“So many people have put their time, effort, money, care and so much more to get us here. Lets not take it for granted,” Layman said. “Parents, family, teachers, friends, mentors and so many more people, thank you for all you have done in order to help us, or sometimes drag us to this day.” Lastly, Layman thanked God for His grace and forgiveness in helping her get to graduation day. She also asked her fellow classmates to thank their parents and families, their teachers and mentors and their fellow classmates for helping them get to this day. She also challenged her classmates to not allow apathy to creep in, but to be caring in all that they do.

Schley County graduate Savannah Miller poses for a picture after graduation.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

In her address to her fellow classmates, Valedictorian Macy Hall stated that today is a new day, a new leaf and a new start. She also stated that this day is a day to defeat fear. Hall said that throughout her days in elementary school, middle school and into high school, she struggled constantly with fear with many issues. “Believing in that fear brought me to the lowest places I had ever been, Hall said. “I believed I would never be good enough.” However, Hall talked about a thing in music called a coda, in which the piece of music is not over yet, but instead, repeats the same verse, but in a different way. She compared the concept of the coda with how life his. That things will not always end the same way. “When I felt insecure, there has always been a kind compliment headed my way. When I’ve been disappointed with my grades, someone has always reminded me that my worth is not defined by a number on a page,” Hall said.

Schley County graduate Prem Patel poses for a picture after graduation.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

In closing, she stated to her classmates and to everyone assembled in the Storm Dome that their song is not over and that there is a coda waiting for them and that they don’t have to listen to the fears that prey on them. “There is another melody: a song of hope, of new beginnings, of a strange and wonderful change,” Hall said.

After Hall’s speech, Harley Calhoun, Principal of Schley County High School began the conferring of the diplomas and one by one; all 93 Schley County graduates received their diplomas to the applause of family and friends. Then after a closing meditation by graduate Matthew Nguyen, each of the graduates turned their tassels and officially became the Schley County graduating class of 2023.