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Advice to the class of 2021 from some who’ve already been there and done that
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Graduation ceremonies Saturday

On Saturday, May 22, 543 students from Richmond Hill High School and 110 from Bryan County High School will graduate. The RHHS graduation will take place at Glynn County Stadium, 5 Community Action Drive, Brunswick. BCHS will graduate at Redskins Stadium in Pembroke. The gates at both sites will open at 8 a.m., and both ceremonies will begin at 9 a.m., with parking on-site at Glynn County Stadium and overflow parking for the BCHS ceremony available at Bryan County Elementary School. Both ceremonies can also be live streamed for free using the link for Richmond Hill and for Bryan County.

Forty comes fast

Dear class of 2021, take it from some folks who’ve already been there and done this whole high school graduation thing. It’s a big moment, yes. But bigger moments lie ahead.

So, don’t waste your life.

“Forty comes fast, so never take a day for granted” said Bryan County Family Connection Executive Director Wendy Sims Futch, a member of the Bryan County High School class of 1999. Futch, who went on to earn a bachelor of science in justice studies at Georgia Southern in 1993, said there are times she wishes she had the time back.

“There are some many things I wish I had known to appreciate more, like silly stuff with grandparents that I took for granted, and I wish I had paid more attention. Life is so short, it really is.

And I think I sound like my mother, but it’s true.” Judy Cook is the longest serving mayor in Pembroke history, and is now on her fifth term after decades as the city’s clerk. She was also the first woman to serve as mayor of the county seat, and was born and raised in Bryan County.

“I know all too well the excitement of becoming a BCHS graduate, having done so myself 59 years ago,” Cook said, in an email. “And while many things have changed between that time and 2021, there are some words of wisdom that ring true no matter the decade.”

Those words?

“Always begin each day with a plan of action, because failing to plan is planning to fail,” she said. “Understand that every opportunity, whether it be success or failure, is a learning opportunity. And finally, remember that no act of kindness, big or small, is ever wasted.”

Richmond Hill Mayor Russ Carpenter is 1987 graduate of Richmond Hill High School back when the school’s senior class numbered 55 students, and his father, Bobby Carpenter, graduated from RHHS in 1948 in a class of 18.

Russ Carpenter said it’s important graduates know that “nothing is written in stone.”

“If you have your life planned out, it’s OK to divert from that,” said Carpenter, a longtime teacher at RHHS. “Circumstances change. Draw closer to God, and don’t worry about the future. Laugh more, and hang out with people who make you laugh.”

David Williams, a Gateway employee and a longtime community volunteer and activist in Pembroke, said he’s a member of “the class of you don’t even want to know,” – actually, he’s part of the Edison Technical and Vocational High School, Mount Vernon, N.Y., class of 1961. His advice to this year’s graduates?

“No. 1, keep a clean background and stay off of drugs,” Williams said. “Those are the key things as long as getting employed. And if you’re not going to college, you really need to consider some sort of trade or a 2-year technical college such as Savannah Tech or Ogeechee Tech.”

An Air Force veteran, Williams said students headed to college should “apply for every scholarship you can get, and be nice to your parents. Try to maintain at least a B average, and above all else, have a goal in mind, and no matter what you decide to do, stay on your path to reach that goal.”

Bryan County Commission Chairman Carter Infinger is a 1982 graduate of the Low Country Academy in Charleston, S.C., who graduated “second or third in his class.”

He said graduates should go where their interests lie.

“Find something you enjoy and pursue it, be it a trade, trade school or college,” and then give 100 percent effort.

“Whatever it is, it has to be your choice,” he said, adding, “don’t get discouraged down the road if the first choice out of high school doesn’t pan out.

“Hopefully they make a wise decision, but they’re still young enough at that point that if it doesn’t work they can find something else they want to do,” he said.

Richmond Hill’s Donald Singleton, a member of the George Washington Carver Class of 1963, retired railroad engineer and Vietnam veteran, said graduates should “keep your head to the sky and shoot for the stars.”

“You can do anything that you want to,” he said. “Don’t let nobody change your mind. Keep your head to the sky, say your prayers and the Lord will help you do whatever it is you want to do.” Mary Fuller, Bryan County area director of the United Way of the Coastal Empire, is a 1987 graduate of Menomonee Falls High School in Wisconsin. She said graduates should know they’re where they should be, even if they’re unsure of where they want to go.

“Please remember that you are exactly where you need to be – some people know exactly what they want to do with their lives and others it takes some time and experience,” she said. “Everyone gives you a lot of advice but trust in yourself and that you will learn what makes you tick if you do not know. You just need to believe in yourself, never stop learning and experiencing new things.”

Richard Keith Evans, the University of Georgia extension agent in Bryan County, is a 2008 graduate of Peach County High School.

He said this is the time for graduates to take charge of their destiny.

“Don’t be afraid to step out and accept new challenges, try new things and leave your comfort zone. As you leave the familiarity of shared experiences and expectations with your classmates the time has come to be who you want to be, not who others think you are supposed to be. Go out of your way to make a great impression on everyone you meet, you never know who it might impact or how it might affect you down the line. The time to be the author of your story is now,” Evans said.

Finally, a note from Cook to all members of the Class of 2021.

“Graduates, whether you spread your wings and travel the world or you choose to make a difference right here at home, I wish you success, happiness, and contentment,” she said. “ Congratulations on a job well done!”

Check out the May 20 print edition of the Bryan County News to see photos of our graduating seniors from the 2021 class of Bryan County High School and Richmond Hill High School.

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