Story and photos by Bobby NeSmith, News Correspondent.
In the early hours of Saturday, May 21, more than 120 young men and women walked onto the field at Redskin Stadium in Pembroke for the final time as high school students. Hundreds packed the stands to honor the Bryan County High School Class of 2022 and pay tribute to the hard work and dedication that got them there.
Graduating senior Miguel Bustamante and the JROTC Color Guard kicked off the ceremony with the presentation of colors, followed by a performance of the national anthem by graduates Lawrence Lowe III and Elijah Gray.
Senior class officers Wesley Padgett, Madison Nelson, and Hannah Van Meter welcomed guests and led them in singing the school’s alma mater before BCHS Principal Elizabeth Raeburn took to the podium offering words of encouragement to the graduates.
Salutatorian Kyndal Leggett said she enced mixed emotions as her time in high school drew to a close. “I feel excited and anxious all at the same time,” she said. “It’s a little depressing thinking about all of the ‘last time’ moments that I will never have again.”
Leggett plans to attend Georgia Southern University in the fall in pursuit of an education degree. She credits the guidance she received from her teachers as a deciding factor in her career choice. “I want to return to my alma mater and give back to the community that did so much for me,” Leggett said.
Leggett’s advice to her underclassmen – stay true to yourself. “Be a leader and not a follower,” she said. “Be the light in the dark for someone else. Never judge a book by its cover and don’t let other people’s opinions of you define who you are.”
One-by-one, students walked across the stage to receive their diplomas. Faculty members shared tearful hugs and generous smiles as onlookers cheered from the stands. Bryan County Schools Superintendent Dr. Paul Brooksher was on hand to officially confer the diplomas and instruct the graduates to turn their tassels, signifying their transition to Redskins alumni.
In keeping with tradition, graduates tossed their caps into the air in an act of solidarity before making their final procession off the field. Amid deafening cheers from families and friends and flanked on both sides by their teachers, the Class of 2022 marched forward into their futures and into the halls of history at Bryan County High School.