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Richmond Hill celebrates the Class of 2024

BRUNSWICK – Richmond Hill High School’s graduating Class of 2024 entered Glynn County Stadium on Friday night to the traditional strains of Pomp and Circumstance.

They exited roughly 90 minutes later, diplomas in hand, to something more 21st century, as the stadium’s lighting flashed on and off and spectators in the stands waved cell phone flashlights.

It was a dazzling end to a ceremony moved up some 13 and a half hours early from a scheduled 9 a.m. Saturday start due to concerns over severe storms headed into the Georgia coast later Friday night and forecast to hang around for most of the weekend.

Despite the early start, the ceremony went off seemingly without a hitch, proof perhaps of RHHS Principal Bivins Miller’s formula, E+R=O. Miller told the more than 500 members of the 2024 class – the first he welcomed in as a new principal in the fall of 2020 -- that outcomes are determined by one’s response to events, not the events themselves.

That theme carried through the ceremony, as class president Hannah Blocker, co-salutatorians Caroline Brown and Alex Lee and valedictorian Joanna Xiao addressed their classmates and urged them to remember where they’ve been and look ahead to bigger things to come.

Blocker told classmates life was a novel, and that it was important to slow down and immerse themselves in the present, “the story of your life,” rather than skip ahead to the end to find out what happened.

Brown, a hockey fan because of its fast pace and mental and physical challenges, spoke of the challenges posed by COVID, when as an eighth grader she and classmates had “to make our way into a new school with no real direction or understanding of what was to come since our eighth grade year ended so soon due to the shutdown in 2020.”

She recalled having to meet classmates by Google and “I remember others like me not knowing what our teachers looked like until the next year and we passed them in the halls and realized some of them didn’t have faces that matched the eyes we saw with masks,” adding that she didn’t know one teacher, had a beard “and was honestly shocked when I saw that you did.”

Lee, who swam for RHHS and the Georgia Coastal Aquatics team, said he had regrets, including not spending more time talking to his family at the dinner table “rather than spending time in my room watching YouTube,” but enjoyed his time in high school and asked his classmates to be appreciative.

“I hope you appreciate the family and friends that surround and support you,” he said. “Take time to enjoy their company and develop into the friend that others are for you.

He added, “Share your thankfulness and tell others how much you appreciate them. And in the future, come back to Richmond Hill High School and talk to your former teachers. They like that.”

Xiao, who like Lee is headed to Georgia Tech – Brown is going to Georgia Southern – spoke of her love of a good story and a good game, and told a story related to a game, asking her classmates to note the numbers sprinkled throughout her story and remember them at the end of her speech.

Her story, about getting a job at a local plant nursery and fearing the snakes that may be lurking in an area known by employees as the “Snake Pit,” and the difficulty she had in making herself enter the area and turn on a spigot because of her fear snakes could be lurking there.

“Recently, thinking about life after high school brings me right back to the edge of the Snake Pit,” Xiao said. “I’m looking right at the rest of my life, yet I have no idea what’s in it?”

But, she added, once she knew why she’d taken the job she was able to turn the spigot on, and then do it again seconds later because she’d turned it the wrong way. “When you have a good enough reason why, it doesn’t matter what dangers may or may not be waiting. You’re going to make it all the way.”

Like both Brown and Lee, Xiao thanked family and teachers and classmates. And, at the end of her speech, she noted the numbers in her address corresponded to letters in the alphabet –spelling “See ya, love ya … bye!”


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