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HCHS bids farewell to 361 graduates

South Boston News
HCHS Principal Michael Lewis recognizes Taseya Coleman as the valedictorian of the Class of 2017. / May 28, 2017
Saturday morning marked the end of a journey for the 361 graduates of the Class of 2017 who crossed the stage to receive their diplomas at Halifax County High School, an event witnessed by thousands of families and friends at the HCHS gymnasium.

Highlighting the ceremony were speeches delivered by the top three academically-ranked seniors: Valedictorian Taseya Danesha Coleman, daughter of Kimberly A. Coleman; Salutatorian Mackenzie Rain Francis, daughter of Susan Cash; and No. 3 Gina Chen, daughter of Kent and Shirley Chen. (Their addresses are published below.)

Also recognized by HCHS Principal Michael Lewis were the other seven members of the school’s Top Ten: Matthew Todd Bain, No. 4; Robert Ford Morrison, No. 5; Chandler Layne Bridgers, No. 6; Reagan Elizabeth Carey, No. 7; Rebecca Grace McCormick, No. 8; Amber Lynn Roane, No. 9; and Lauren Kay Davis, No. 10. Each of the Top Ten seniors received $1,000 scholarships from the Halifax County Education Foundation to the college of their choice.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Merle Herndon and Dr. Anne Hayes, Dean of Institutional Effectiveness of Southside Virginia Community College, recognized students who have earned the Associate of Arts and Science Degree.

Diplomas were then presented to the graduates by Dr. Herndon and School Board chairman Karen G. Hopkins and board trustee Kimberly T. Farson.

Visitors to the event were welcomed by Senior Class President Kayleigh Linwood Long, and the JROTC Cadets posted the colors after the HCHS band played the National Anthem. Christopher Darrin Talbott led the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag.

Valedictorian’s speech — Taseya Coleman

Good morning faculty, staff, families of the graduates, and Class of 2017. This morning, Class of 2017, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the struggle is over: the struggle of Ms. Hoyle’s Poetry Analysis Project, Ms. Sibley’s Macbeth test, Mrs. Conner’s Calculus tests, Mrs. Spencer’s and Mrs. Saunders’ Chemistry classes, and any other classes that you struggled with over the last four years are all in the past. The bad news is that the real struggles are about to begin: the struggles of being an adult, living on your own, and making your own decisions. But don’t worry, the struggles in here were only meant as preparation for the struggles out there, and all of us are prepared whether we realize it or not.

You guys remember that flood at the end of April. Of course you do; it got us out of school for 3 days. I’m sure you also remember the damage it caused but also the unity it created. It came through, left its mark, and then receded. In a lot of ways, we are that flood. We came here, stayed for a while, and now, we’re leaving, but similar to that flood, we will never be forgotten. Our impact is too large, on the school and each other, to ever forget the Class of 2017 that walked these halls. Like that flood, we are strong, powerful, and unstoppable. The obstacles that we face in life may seem insurmountable, but like that flood, we have the power to do anything. We can create chaos, or we can create change and invoke unity. Looking out on all of you, I know that you all have the potential to create change and make the world a better place, and I hope all of you choose to do so.

I encourage all of you to never give up on yourselves or your dreams, but just in case you get discouraged, think of me. Who would have thought 13 years ago that I would be up here giving a Valedictorian speech? Well, I did. It has been a personal goal of mine ever since the fifth grade to be in the top of my class. Think of me as an example of what is possible when you set your heart and mind to something, and the answer to that question by the way is anything. Never allow the mistakes of yesterday to limit who you are today. We will all make mistakes, and the only thing that we can do is learn from them. Don’t allow them to keep you from achieving your goals. Know that the path to success will not be clear, but it will always be possible.

With hard work, determination, dedication, and with a little bit of faith, you can do anything. During the last four years, we’ve experienced triumphs and defeats, but through all of the laughter, the tears, and the memories, we have become more than just peers; we’re family. I wish you all happy and healthy lives filled with love, joy, peace, and prosperity. I leave you today with one final thought: Always be yourself, always believe in yourself because in the end, only you can make your dreams a reality. I hope all of your dreams come true! Thank you, I love you, God Bless You, and Congratulations Class of 2017!

Salutatorian’s speech — MacKenzie Francis

Good morning,
First off, I would like to welcome and thank our faculty and staff as well as the families and friends who made the Class of 2017 possible. Let’s give them a round of applause. As many of you know, I am an umpire. I make split-second calls using my best judgment, and I always approach each pitch with an open mind. When asked about how I feel about umpiring, I normally answer with, “It’s hard being blue.” Many of the people that I give this answer to reply, “Well, I couldn’t do what you do.” Although many of you will never put on that blue collared shirt and be yelled at by that sideline umpire who thinks he knows the rules better than you, you are the umpire of your own life.

Nearly every night I go on that ball field, and I never know what is going to happen. I just go out there and do my job to the best of my ability. This is the mentality that we will begin to have as we become adults. Every day we will make pitch calls as we decide what to wear or eat. We’ll have to make base calls as we have to decide between buying new shoes and paying the light bill. We will have to determine obstruction or interference as we begin to balance our own budgets. We will have to decide if the ball is fair or foul as we bring others into our lives. Although it can one of the toughest calls to make, sooner or later we will have to eject someone.

If you’ve ever seen me on the field, you know I’m not a perfect umpire. In fact, I’ve been told that I’m one of the worst, usually by people who disagree with a call. As you begin to umpire your life in the big leagues, you will make mistakes, but remember, you will always have at least one partner in the field who will help you make the call. This partner could be a parent, friend, preacher, coworker, or anyone that you know that is willing to help you. No matter how good of a game you call or what call you ultimately make, you can’t make everyone happy. As you continue to make calls, always remember to finish strong. You’re going to be tired of being hit by wild pitches, foul balls, and the occasional bat as well as having people on your heels with every call. Despite these unfortunate yet guaranteed hardships, you have to keep your head up and remember what you’re working for. At the end of the day you will be battered and bruised, but your pride will overpower this pain because you know that you survived another battle.

Congratulations to the Class of 2017. I love y’all. God bless and let’s play ball.

No. 3 in the class — Gina Chen

Good morning faculty, staff, and students. We have all gathered here to witness the end and the beginning of a new chapter for the class of 2017! I would not be where I am right now without the support of my friends and family but most of all my parents. They have been there for me through everything, and I couldn’t do it without them, so thank you mom and dad!

I once read that “character development is the true aim of education.” We have all matured from being our parents’ precious little children into young men and women who are capable of great things. Even though I know some of the parents are still reluctant to let their children go like mine are.

We’ve been asked our entire lives what we want to be when we grow up. The answers varied from astronauts to rock stars to president. But now that we’ve actually grown up, they want a genuine answer. The answer isn’t definite; it will change as we go out and make mistakes because that’s what this time is for. We all have to try new things and fail a couple of times to find what we are truly destined to do.

You just got to have the same mindset as Big Sean. “Last night took an L, but tonight I bounce back.” But when we do find that answer, we’ll know we made the right decision. I know that whatever each and every one of you decide to do will lead you to great places.

Graduation has always been in the back of our minds since the only thing we focused on was to pass our classes. We didn’t think that this day would come, but now we are actually here at graduation and all that hard work has paid off. As Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Well I’m here to tell you that we’ve done it class of 2017!

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