A scholastic tradition with roots stretching back to at least the 15th century continues Saturday when the class of 2014 graduates from Bryan County’s two high schools.
And it’s as big a deal now as it was when scholars first began donning caps and gowns to keep warm all those drafty centuries ago.
“Graduating from high school is a significant accomplishment, which concludes an amazing educational journey that began 13 years earlier as a 5-year-old in Kindergarten,” Bryan County Schools Superintendent Dr. Paul Brooksher said. “The Board of Education and I would like to congratulate the Bryan County Schools Class of 2014 and wish them the very best on their future endeavors.”
And what a class it will be.
More than 470 students will receive their diplomas Saturday — 111 from Bryan County High School; 362 from Richmond Hill High School. That number includes 36 honor graduates at BCHS and 94 from RHHS.
It’s a class that includes four appointees to U.S. military academies and winners of both academic and athletic scholarships worth more than $6.1 million at RHHS alone.
BCHS has 54 Hope scholars and more than $615,000 in additional scholarship offers, principal Dr. Dawn Hadley said.
As for the end of another school year, Hadley said it’s an occasion that tends to bring out some tears.
“I always get emotional during the graduation season because we have watched our students transform from the ninth grade versions of themselves, to these young adults who are ready to face the world,” she said. “It’s a unique vantage point that we get to enjoy. We invest so much time and energy into getting them prepared, but letting them go is hard. We love our students and we want the very best for their futures.”
Nuts and bolts
Bryan County High School’s graduation ceremony is at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the school gym. Doors will be locked at 9:30 a.m., BCHS principal Dr. Dawn Hadley said.
Richmond Hill High School’s graduation ceremony is at Tiger Arena on the campus of Savannah State University beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday. Practice will be held at 8 a.m.
According to RHHS, its graduation ceremony will be available to view online by going to www.GHSA.tv and typing in “Richmond Hill High School.”
Top of their class
And then, of course, there are the four students who have earned the distinction of being valedictorian and salutatorian — twin sisters Ansley and Ashlyn Avera at BCHS, respectively; Vy Nguyen and Robbie Hester at RHHS, respectively.
All four will address their fellow graduates at Saturday’s ceremonies, another tradition dating back centuries.
After all, the word “graduate” is from the early 15th century, according to the online etymology site etymonline.com.
It stems from the Latin graduari, “to take a degree,” and the latin “gradus,” or step, grade.”
Those graduation speeches, by the way, were works in progress Tuesday.
“I’m still working on mine,” said RHHS valedictorian Nguyen, whose sister, Ly, was valedictorian at RHHS in 2013.
Her older sister’s advice on writing a graduation speech?
“Make it motivational and keep it short,” Vy Nguyen said.
That’s advice Hester, the school’s salutatorian, said he’s also gotten.
“For the most part, it’s “keep it short, keep it concise because everybody wants to go home,’” he said, laughing.
Not that being salutatorian happens every day to kids all over the planet. It’s something they’ll remember forever.
Just ask BCHS salutatorian Ashlyn Avera.
“It’s wonderful,” she said. “If you would have asked me my freshman year if I thought I’d be salutatorian, I would have said no. Even if you asked me my junior year I could never have imagined this honor.
“I love it. It’s a great feeling to see how hard work pays off.”
Ashlyn will share time in the spotlight with her twin, Ansley, the school’s valedictorian. And it’s something both won’t forget.
“We are extremely close, and I definitely consider her my best friend,” Ansley said. “I consider it an honor to be going through the process of speech writing and being awarded this accomplishment with her.”
Ashlyn put it this way:
“We’ve spent our whole life together,” she said. “To be able to have this experience together, it’s a memory we’re going to have together. We’ll be able for the rest of our lives to look back on this moment.”
As for the speeches, the Averas say that’s still under wraps. They want their classmates to hear it first.