Brooke Edwards began her valedictorian address by congratulating her fellow Bryan County High School graduates.
She concluded it by making a few last requests of her classmates as they gathered for the final time as BCHS students.
“Never forget who you are,” Edwards told the Class of 2015. “Each of you are amazing individuals with talents beyond belief. You can achieve anything your heart desires if you only strive for it. When you face adversity, do not give into it. Fight it, and follow all of your dreams.”
BCHS conferred diplomas on 96 graduates Saturday during commencement exercises in the school gym. The ceremony reflected the close-knit school, with family and friends packed onto the bleachers, seated near the graduates.
Edwards acknowledged that the members of the Class of 2015 would go their separate ways following graduation. She and some of her classmates will head to college, while others will serve in the military and others will enter the workforce.
“No matter what you decide to do, do it with passion and love what you do,” Edwards said. “I wish all of you immeasurable happiness.”
Edwards and salutatorian Jay Patel were among 26 seniors recognized as honor graduates. Another honor graduate, Brandon Sellers, gave a musical tribute, playing guitar and singing the popular Green Day song “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).”
In his speech, Patel thanked his friends “for showing the true value of friendship throughout the years.” He forged bonds with elementary-, middle- and high-school classmates that he expects to last a lifetime.
“High school is filled with many challenges — mostly academic,” Patel said. “By having these bonds, the obstacles in life were easier.”
Patel reminisced on the graduates’ “13-year academic adventure,” particularly the middle-school days, when high-school graduation still was a distant thought. Life was simpler then, he said, with fewer worries and no need to make big decisions about the future.
“We are truly in charge of our lives and decisions we start making today,” Patel said. “Today is your day.”
Edwards, also the senior-class president, described her final year at BCHS as a “roller coaster in emotions.” She counted down to graduation day, but then couldn’t believe how quickly her senior year flew by.
“I remember walking in our first pep rally as seniors with huge smiles on our faces as they announced us, the Class of 2015,” Edwards said. “Then, I found myself fighting tears while being escorted by my parents onto the soccer field as I played my last home game ever.”
She wasn’t the only one fighting tears. BCHS Principal Cari Delatorre choked up as she bid the graduates farewell.
“Spread your wings and fly,” Delatorre said. “But remember — once a Redskin, always a Redskin.”