POINT PLEASANT — The Point Pleasant High School Class of 2016 looked back while moving forward during Saturday’s graduation commencement ceremony.
There were 170 students receiving diplomas during the school’s 120th commencement ceremony.
Senior Class President Madison Shuler’s remarks referenced famous lines of dialogue from “The Breakfast Club,” a 31-year old movie made long before the Class of 2016 came into existence.
Shuler was followed by Alexa Toth, the second in her class, who spoke to her fellow graduates about arriving at PPJ/SHS as seventh graders and how they were all now “taking the next big step into our future.”
Toth said some graduates were going to college, others straight into the workforce, but she wanted them all to remember this: “You can choose to blame your circumstances on fate, or bad luck, or bad choices, or you can fight back. Things aren’t always going to be fair in the real world, that’s just the way it is, but for the most part, you get back in this world what you put in. The rest of our life is being shaped right now with the dreams you chase, the choices you make and the person you decided to be. So, Class of 2016, go make this world a better place than it was before.”
Toth then introduced the top students in the Class of 2016 which was an honor shared by Brandon Hall, Brandon Henderson and Makinley Higginbotham. The three “top students” approached the podium together and delivered their speech together, as a team.
Hall was the first to address his classmates, saying: “Our entire lives we’ve been told that we’re special, that we’re going to accomplish great things. The truth is, that everything we’ve been told, is a lie. This ceremony is occurring at thousands of high schools around the nation, for an even greater number of students. The world won’t welcome us with open arms simply for existing, we must prove to the world that we are worth its time, just as (King) Solomon said, we must work with all our might in whatever we do, without a commitment to our futures, we can’t accomplish anything, and thinking that our existence is enough, is nothing more than wishful thinking.”
Hall then went on to say, before being unfairly labeled as a “pessimist” by those listening to his opening remarks, he described seeing the triumphs of his class and the persistence of his fellow classmates.
“I know that each and every one of us is capable of achieving anything we set our minds to,” Hall added. “We must put every ounce of our effort in what we find ourselves doing..it’s imperative we give it our all while we still can.”
Henderson then approached the podium, saying: “We accomplish many things but we don’t accomplish them by ourselves. In attendance tonight, we have loved ones, faculty, peers and others who have supported us through this time. In the future, there will be those who we will become close to, those who we will cherish, they will be our coworkers, professors, mentors and best friends. Realizing that others are an integral part of our development is essential to achieving our goals, we need to be appreciative of others and their contributions to our lives. We are all living this life together and we should be considerate of others and lift them with us on our journey to higher ambitions, as we climb higher and higher in life, we have a responsibility to our society. We have to be able to keep our word. If you say you are going to do something, do it, and do it to the best of your ability; if you say you’re going to be there, be there on time. We have the responsibility to use our God-given talents for the betterment of society.”
Henderson then acknowledged other members of his class by name and then everyone as a whole, saying: “Members of the Class of 2016, our work does not stop here, this is simply the end of one chapter of our lives.”
Higginbotham then spoke to her fellow graduates, saying: “This day and age, you can explore the world with just one click. You can Google for an answer, you can Google for a mate, and you can Google for a career, but you can’t Google what’s in your heart, the passion that lifts you… Throughout our lives we’ve always been instructed on what to do, the problem is, passion isn’t supposed to be constructed, it’s supposed to be uncontrollable and energetic…. Time to stop conforming to society and discover your purpose in the world.”
Higginbotham then said this may be the last time she sees some of her classmates and wanted to take advantage of these final moments together, adding: “While we still have time together, I encourage you to use your passion to challenge yourself to be a better person. If you feel like there’s something out there that you’re supposed to be doing, if you have a passion for it, then stop wishing and just do it, follow your heart, and don’t let anyone turn you down.”
Principal William Cottrill then addressed the class, saying though he wouldn’t make his famous “the dash” speech to these students, he included a copy of it in their diplomas. Instead, he recognized several students by name and talked about their achievements before presenting the class to Superintendent Jack Cullen.
Teacher Matt Cottrill then began the class roll as each graduate was greeted by PPHS staff members, Cullen and members of the Mason County Board of Education. Keeping true to the unofficial class song, “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds from “The Breakfast Club,” during the class roll, students paused for a moment of silence to remember the late Andrea Bailes at the point where her name should’ve been called to receive her diploma. Bailes was killed by a drunk driver in a crash in 2011 and a large photo of her appeared near the podium at the ceremony.
After the roll call, Shuler returned to the podium for the “changing of tassels” and members of the All State Chorus and Band, which included Seniors Katherine Deem, Christopher Johnson, Jamin Layton, Gretchen Nibert and Shayne Ward, sang the Alam Mater.
The recessional began with the nontraditional “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” playing across the PA system. As graduates exited the football field, in the words of filmmaker John Hughes as delivered by Shuler: “You see us as you want to see us – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions.”
Of course, those “definitions” have names and a complete list of graduates appears here with * denoting cum laude graduates with a 3.5 to 3.8 GPA, ^ denoting magna cum laude graduates with a 3.81 to 4 GPA, + denoting summa cum laude graduates with a 4.01 GPA or higher: *Cassandra Adkins, +Macy Adkins, Patricia Allen, Travis Allen, Heather Anderson, Maria Arbogast, Samantha Atkinson, Billy Austin, *Monica Barlar, Kaleb Beckner, *Kelly Belcher, Stephen Benson, II, Christopher Berkely, Matthew Bickerdt, Tyra Black, Matthew Blakely, Alexander Bonecutter, Haleigh Bonecutter, ^Cobie Bowers, Nathan Bowman, Jenna Bright, Trenton Bright, *Keaton Burch, Lisa Burris, Shelby Butler, Joshua Campbell, Cynthia Casto, Justice Chapman, Robert Ciarapica, Jr., Destiny Clark, Karissa Cochran, Hope Cook, ^Sydney Crawford, Molly Crum, Ashley Crump, Jordan Cunningham, Carlee Dabney.
+Katherine Deem, Daniel Despres, +Kaitlyn Dunn, Rebekah Durst, Torrie Epling, *Anna Fannin, Alfred Raymond Fauver, Jr., ^Nashayla Fauver, Calvin Ford, Aubree Geppert, *Bradley Gibbs, Heather Gibbs, Brandon Gleason, *Steven Gooderham, Jr., +Abigail Hall, +Brandon Hall, Richard Haller, Brianna Hamm, John Harper, Madison Harper, Tristen Hay, Matthew Head, +Brandon Henderson, +Kaitlyn Henry, Jakob Higginbotham, +Makinley Higginbotham, Mariah Hill, Tannor Hill, Cheyanna Hoffman, Kendra Holland, Brian Holley, *Laryssa Howell, Mikayla Hughes, Kristian Hunt, Logan Hunter, +Christopher Johnson, Destiny Jones, Joshua Karas, Christina Kennett.
^Erin Kidwell, ^Derek King, *Rhett Lanier, Jamin Layton, +Charli Leach, +Lucy Li, Brandon Litchfield, Colby Litchfield, Garrett Litchfield, Justin Litchfield, ^James Littlepage, Christopher Lush, Alexandra Martin, ^Thaddeus Martin, Tabitha Mayes, Matthew McCarthy, *Sydney McCarthy, Zoe McComas, Ansleigh McCoy, *Jessica McCoy, Cody McDaniel, Daniel McDaniel, Cheyenne McNutt, +Alexis Meadows, Kyra Meadows, Codey Miller, ^Cody Mitchell, Dillon Moore, Michael Moore, Caetlin Mullens, ^Jordan Muncy, *Leigh Musgrave, Rebecca Musgrave, +Gretchen Nibert, Kyle Nibert, Kayla Nomar, Brooke Pardue, Clayton Patterson, *James Patterson.
Kayla Pearson, Chase Peyton, ^Teshia Porter, Kristen Queen, Alexander Quintal, Kody Ramey, ^Matthew Richardson, Kaitlyn Riffle, ^Kyra Riffle, ^Erykah Roach, Jacob Robinson, Issac Ross, Hayley Roush, Alexis Runion, Sky Saber, Christopher Sargent, Jason Sayre, Sheyenne Satterfield, Kyla Scott, +Madison Shuler, Louinette Sims, Dylan Smith, Sabreanna Smith, Shayla Smith, Dakota Sockwell, John Sommer, *Alec Stanley, *Brandi Stroup, Natasha Sturgeon, Taylor Sturgeon, Jessica Sturgill, Dakota Swann, Anniston Swisher, Kelsey Tate, Ryan Taylor, +Alexis Thomas, Cody Thomas, +Alexa Toth, Elias Towner.
Victoria Trimble, Trenton Tucker, Tray Tucker, ^Darrian Walker, Dustin Wamsley, Travis Wamsley, Trenton Wamsley, Shayne Ward, David Watts, *Hunter White, +Scotty Wilcox, Timothy Willet, +Nicole Williams, +Jocelynn Wilson, Jeffery Woodall, ^Breanna Wyant, Joseph Yoder.
Reach Beth Sergent at [email protected] or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.