By John R. Schirmer
It’s a “chance to wear those diamond square hats and that robe thingy.”
You do it “to let people know you’re gonna go to college.”
It means you “can be done with school … and wear make-up.”
Those are some of the main things 6-year-old Lauren Ferguson told her sister, Nashville High School salutatorian Brittany Backus, about graduation.
Backus related those comments, and others that Lauren made about high school in general, in her salutatory address before an overflow crowd Sunday afternoon during graduation ceremonies at Scrapper Arena.
Three weeks ago, Principal Tate Gordon told Backus to prepare a speech for graduation. She thought about it for a while but drew a blank. In typical student fashion, she put off the speech until the last minute.
One week before graduation day, “Nothing really stood out to me … until my sister came to the table with a pen and started writing her own ‘speech’ on her piece of paper,” Backus said. “That’s when my speech’s topic hit me: High School through the Eyes of My Six-Year-Old Sister.”
Backus interviewed Lauren and gleaned the following responses:
About the first day of high school – “There will be some blondies and some brown-hairs in your classes. Two of the teachers will be nice.”
High school food – “Sandwiches, pizza, cookies, bread and spaghetti.”
Hardest, easiest and most fun classes – “Algebra is hardest, and science is the easiest and the most fun.”
A normal day at high school – “You get up way too early, leave home, drive, park, walk inside, go to your classroom, finish class, go to another class and stay until it’s over.”
Lunch time – “I don’t know … 12 o’clock.”
Then came the aforementioned views of graduation.
Backus said that Lauren’s perspective on high school “comes from the things she has heard and seen from me. All she knows is what she’s seen or been told, because she has yet to experience it for herself.”
Right now, Backus said, the NHS grads “are the six-year-olds. We are the six-year-olds of college and of full-time jobs and of families. All we know is what we’ve seen from our friends or parents or other adults in our lives. Because of this … it’s our responsibility to create positive perspectives for future generations.”
The graduates “must make good decisions and choices. We must keep a positive attitude. Never stop learning. Always pursue something greater, and always keep moving forward. Lastly, we must do what makes us happy.”
Backus wrapped up her address with a quotation from the late Maya Angelou, a poet who grew up at Stamps. “ You are the sum of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.”
Backus was one of four students who spoke during graduation. Senior class president Sadie Prejean gave the welcome address, and Gabriela Ruiz delivered the address in Spanish.
Valedictorian Patrick Lamb’s address followed the class song “Remember When.” Lamb said the graduates spent 2,314 days “learning, studying, wondering and preparing ourselves for today, the culmination of our 13-year expedition,, which is the day that we begin an even greater expedition in our lives. Some of us will enroll this fall in college; some of us will bravely defend our nation, and some of us will begin our careers sooner than others; some may even begin a family. The important thing is to shine while you live. Prove that you exist in this world and accomplish something that will carry on, no matter how large or small.”
Lamb said that the graduates’ accomplishment “could not have been possible without the help of so many people. Our parents, who were there for our late-night projects procrastinated to the last minute, to help with homework they didn’t understand, summer camps, the plays, band recitals, the far-away late-night ball games. The teachers and administrators who put up with us for this long, guided us and gave us the foundation of knowledge for our future. The coaches who helped us achieve victory and glory. To all of these people who stood by us, I say: The success and greatness we achieve is yours. For it was you who dared us to better than we thought we could be. You believed in us even when we doubted ourselves. You are the reason we are here today. We, the class of 2016, thank every single one of you.”
Lamb told the graduates and the audience to remember the words of J.R.R. Tolkein: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
After the students’ speeches, Counselor Crystal Evans reviewed the scholarships and other financial aid awarded to the graduates.
The seniors received $65,400 in local scholarships, $812,800 from the military, and $1,210,870 in scholarships from the state and from colleges and universities.
Evans said the total so far is $2,089,070. Additional money could be received.
Chemistry and physics teacher Scott Horne delivered the faculty charge to the graduates. He pointed out that Aug. 18, 2003 was an important date because it was “your first day at Nashville Primary School, and it was my first day on the job at Nashville High School. We officially became Scrappers on the same day.
Horne told the students that “we’re all connected. Never forget to call your mom. Soon you’ll make new connections. At the same time, stay in touch with your past. Remember where you came from. Be yourself. There’s no one else like you. You are extraordinary. You are unique.”
Principal Gordon, Assistant Principal Kim Slayton and School Board President Miles Mitchell presented diplomas, followed by the NHS “Alma Mater.”
Gordon presented the 2016 graduating class as Lauren Ferguson and about 2,000 others looked on at Scrapper Arena.