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GALLERY: Richmond Hill seniors celebrate a milestone
Scenes from Richmond Hill High School's 2022 graduation ceremony May 21, 2022 at Glynn County Stadium in Brunswick. - photo by Jeff Whitten

BRUNSWICK – Richmond Hill’s Class of 2022 marched across the stage and into the rest of their lives Saturday morning before a gathering of friends and family.

In all, 572 seniors, including 109 honor graduates, received their diplomas during the commencement exercise Glynn County Stadium on a warm, humid morning in which the rain held off until the parking lot had started to clear.

It only took about 90 minutes from start to finish, with the morning kicking off when the RHHS band played “Pomp and Circumstance” and the school’s JROTC color guard presented the colors.

Senior Class Vice President Lucia Pham led the pledge of allegiance and the band played the National Anthem. Senior Class President Maggie Baker gave a welcome, followed by addresses from Salutatorian Ryan Weibold and Valedictorian Cecilia Mateo.

And then RHHS Principal Bivens Miller presented the senior class, and he and Bryan County Board of Education Chairwoman Amy Murphy handed out diplomas.

As they crossed the stage and came down a ramp some seniors celebrated, a few cried. One or two scowled, and a few looked as if they wondered what all the fuss was about. Some were accompanied by parents who were also educators.

And then it was time for Murphy to declare the students were graduates, and Baker led them in the turning of the tassel, followed by the exultant tossing of mortarboards into the air.

Here is the Valedictorian speech by Cecilia Mateo:

Good morning and welcome. Before I begin my commencement speech, I would first like to thank some people. To the faculty and staff of Richmond Hill High School, thank you for providing us with a wonderful place to learn and guiding us through this journey to make sure we ended up at graduation. None of us would be here without your passion and dedication. To the friends and family of all the graduates today, thank you for your endless love and support— without you guys none of this would be possible. And lastly, to all the graduates, this isn’t exactly a thank you, but I could not have asked for a better class to share this day with. We have been through a lot together, and today is the culmination of all the long nights and even longer days at school that we have survived. So congratulations on all your hard work. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us.

There’s a popular phrase: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” I know it’s cheesy and it’s a quote we’ve all probably heard at least once in our lives. However, it's something that I’ve been reflecting on a lot this past year. If you think back, we all have our moons— something we’ve been working towards for most of our high school careers or even most of our lives; maybe it was earning an athletic scholarship or getting into a particular school. My moon was getting into an Ivy League school. I worked really hard for it. I took the most difficult classes I could manage, joined a multitude of different clubs and extracurriculars, and pushed myself unrelentingly. This past winter, after years of work and stress, it came time for me to submit my applications. Three months later, I received my rejection letters.

I couldn’t help but be let down that the dream I had focused on for the entirety of my academic career would never be fully realized. But then I understood that all my work wasn’t for nothing. Almost two months later, I can safely say that my rejection wasn’t a failure. Even though I didn’t reach the goal I wanted, I found everything I needed during my journey through high school. Setting my sights on big schools early pushed me to take AP classes as a freshman. Without that push, I would have never taken AP Biology which helped me discover my love for biology and science. Deciding to join all the extracurriculars in hopes of becoming a well-rounded student helped me find friends and a love for helping others, something I hope to continue doing for the rest of my life. Joining the marching band was something I was initially hesitant about, but it led me to find my two best friends and a community that gradually became my second family.

Now, this is simply my story. Maybe you did end up getting recruited or getting into the school of your dreams. Maybe you achieved the goal, whatever it may be, or, maybe you’re like me and you didn’t. Even still, along the way, I am sure that you found something greater. You found friends and mentors, learned lessons in perseverance and diligence, and gained wisdom and life experience. The journey to achieve each and every goal you put your mind to teaches you something new, something you never expected. Don’t let mistakes or misses deter you because there is always something greater to be gained.

Graduates, even if you didn’t reach your moon or haven’t reached it yet, never stop working, never stop dreaming. Our lives have been intertwined for so long, and I have seen us all work hard to get to this finish line. As we prepare for a future where we are no longer seeing each other every day, I am confident that each of you is destined for great things that will leave a lasting impact. Each and every one of you was put here for a reason, and it’s up to you to find that and pursue it relentlessly. There are an infinite number of possibilities you can shoot for, and I’m sure that no matter what, you’ll end up where you are meant to be— whether it be on the moon or among the stars. Thank you everyone and congratulations Class of 2022!

Here is the Salutatorian speech by Ryan Wiebold:

Good morning everybody. I want to start off by saying thank you to the wonderful RHHS administrators, teachers, and staff; you all played a huge role in my life and the lives of others over the past four years- we wouldn’t be here without you. I also want to thank my friends and family for always helping me study and providing constant support. I want to give a special thank you to the baseball guys for the brotherhood we shared; I’ll never have something close to that again.

I think me standing here giving my speech before Cece is pretty poetic. After barely beating her GPA each year in middle school and then scoring just 10 points higher than her on the SAT, she is finally getting the last word over me. I’m very proud of her accomplishments and what she will achieve, and I’m happy to call her my friend.

What I want to talk about today is challenge. Everybody has had their own challenges during high school, some big and some small. I’ve had my share, believe it or not. Last year I was sitting at zero out of ten required service hours for my clubs… and it was May. I ended up getting all my hours by cataloging and boxing books for Mrs. Goldrick and Mrs. Turner as they moved offices, which led me to a friendship with those amazing teachers. Another time earlier this year, I really needed to go to the bathroom, but all of the ones on the west campus were closed down after a mysterious toilet disappearance. Some of us have struggled with procrastination, others with finding friends. Whatever the challenge, we persevered through these four years, and are now perched at the starting line for what comes next.

But really, some of us have had lifelong challenges that define who we are. When I was born, I was diagnosed with persistent pulmonary hypertension and respiratory distress, which in English means I couldn’t breathe and almost died. Over the next few years, the doctors delivered to my parents a series of professional opinions: I would have extreme, if not total, hearing loss, I would have learning disabilities, and I would never be able to play team sports. Now, my lungs work just fine, I definitely don’t have trouble learning, and I’ve been an athlete my entire life- but whether due to the stress my infant body went through or the side effects of the medication I needed to live, I was left with mild to moderate hearing loss that I must deal with for my entire life.

My parents never wanted to limit me like the doctors suggested. They raised me to be more than a kid with hearing aids. I accomplished everything they wanted for me and more because I never saw this challenge as a towering cliff that I faced, but as a small hurdle along the way. Once you understand that everyone, even those who appear happy and carefree, have leapt over their own hurdles or are facing their own cliffs, you begin to realize that life is going to work out. If others can make it through, you can too. In fact, all of you have already overcome so much by being here today. In 2020, when it seemed like the worst time to be a high schooler, we adapted and thrived, and now, two years later, we graduate. I think that lets you know the amazing character held by the class of 2022. Most of our other personal challenges are different, but this difference is what has created all the unique people sitting around each and every one of you, ready to begin their next race.

All in all, don’t limit yourself. No challenge is too difficult to overcome. Life may not be easy, but you are all more prepared than you realize to take on whatever obstacles are in your path. Take that tough course, walk on to that college sports team, go skydiving; achieve what people around you thought you could never do. Every single one of you holds a unique place in this race to success - don’t let a hurdle or two hold you back. Thank you for the ride class of 2022.

Now, I am beyond honored to introduce your class valedictorian, Cecelia Mateo!

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