By STEVEN NALLEY
Approximately 5,000 parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends filled the Humphrey Coliseum Sunday as 217 students graduated from Starkville High School.
After the graduates’ procession onto the coliseum floor, the ceremony began with a presentation of colors by the SHS ROTC, a performance of the national anthem by the SHS Madrigals, and an invocation by senior Sheila ArunKumar.
Then senior Chasity Swoopes gave the welcome address, and she said while it would be hard to say goodbye to her fellow classmates, she was excited about the new experiences to be had.
“As we finally close this amazing chapter of our lives,” she said, “we can only imagine and dream of what the future might hold.”
When Starkville High School principal Keith Fennell gave a speech recognizing such special guests as the Starkville School District Administration and the Board of Trustees, he also recognized the graduates’ families and friends in attendance. He said they had played an instrumental role in the students’ graduation and their other accomplishments, past, present, and future.
“Your presence affirms your belief in these students,” Fennell said.
Fennell also said he was proud of the students themselves for all their achievements. In total, the SHS Class of 2011 has earned more than $4 million in scholarships, he said.
“These seniors have served as examples for others to follow, in the classroom as well as on the playing field,” Fennell said.
Audiences then heard a speech from Valedictorian Davis Richardson, a National Merit Finalist and Eagle Scout heavily involved with SHS’s award-winning theatre program and the Starkville Interact Club, among other honors. Richardson began his speech with a reference to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” and continued quoting it throughout the speech.
“My mama told me when I was young we are all born superstars,” Richardson said, quoting Lady Gaga. “The pop singer’s mom had it right when she said those words, because it’s true. We will always be the SHS class of 2011, and I hope we always remember to respect ourselves.”
Richardson said one of the biggest challenges for young people today is the way modern pop culture pressures them to hide their real identities. He said such modern conveniences as Facebook and cell phones make it easy for people to hide themselves.
“I don’t worry about the SHS Class of 2011, however,” Richardson said. “We are tough, we are flexible, but most of all, we are prepared.”
The next address came from Valedictorian Laura Kathryn Lindsay, president of Starkville High School’s Honor Society, second alternate in Mississippi State University’s Junior Miss pageant, a first runner up at the state Poetry Out Loud competition, and another staple of SHS’s award-winning theatre line-up. Lindsay began her address with references of her own, quoting “The Tortoise and the Hare” and Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!,” among other children’s literature.
“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!” Lindsay said, quoting Dr. Seuss. “I’ve learned that some children’s books are just for fun, but some are good advice wrapped in simplicity.”
Lindsay said that one of the most important things SHS had taught them was flexibility, with shifting block schedules, adjustments for snow days, and other constant changes. She said she looks forward to seeing the different paths her classmates will take.
“I’m sure the 200 of us will go on to do 200 different things, but they will all be great,” Lindsay said. “I can’t wait to see what we all become and how we change the world.”
After the graduates received their diplomas, Keith Fennell and Beth Sewell certified the class, and a benediction was given by senior Nur Mujahid.
Wendy Brewer, English teacher at SHS, said the class had done well.
“I think this has been a great class to work with,” Brewer said. “Everyone’s been very cooperative, and they seem very excited.”