BHS valedictorian: ‘Don’t let numbers define you’

Patrick Love

Often at high school graduations, the valedictorian uses his or her speech to talk about the experiences the graduating class had together at school, how much they accomplished and how prepared they are for the future.
Cameron Paul Owen took a different route, noting, “Experiences are not explained, rather they’re felt, and I just can’t put many of the times we’ve had here into words.”
As Owen delivered the valedictory address at Bluestone High School’s 62nd graduation commencement on Saturday, he talked about the difference between being book smart and having common sense.
Flanked by Salutatorian Joseph Robert Bagbey and overlooking 118 fellow graduating seniors, Owen dismissed his class-high grade-point average as being “just a number” and urged his fellow graduates, “Don’t let numbers be used to define who you are as an individual,” and “Make the most of your life, make it count, because you only have one.”
He also offered a personal experience of working in plumbing with his father.
“When I began working with my dad doing plumbing work a few years ago, it benefited me so much more than I could ever imagine,” Owen said. “No, it wasn’t always the best working conditions, but it taught me a lot about what to expect outside of school. When I first started working, I found out pretty quickly that I may have been fairly smart in school, but I didn’t know much at all outside of school. I learned the difference between being book smart and having some common sense, the latter of which I still struggle with today.
“You don’t have to be smart in school or have a high GPA to be successful in life. You’re all pretty good at something. You just have to find out what it is.”
Chairman Glenn Barbour offered congratulations to the graduates on behalf of the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors, adding, “We certainly wish you well in the future, and we know you have a bright future ahead.”
School board chairman Brent Richey congratulated the parents and caregivers of the graduates, saying, “In the book of Matthew it says, ‘You will know them by their fruits.’ Your child’s success here today is the fruit of your labor as a parent, and you should be proud.”
Richey then addressed the graduating seniors, quoting the economist Thomas Sowell as saying, “Ideas are everywhere, knowledge is rare.”
“This next stage you’re about the enter will be the greatest opportunity in your life to acquire that knowledge. Please don’t squander it,” Richey said. “And if you find it in your heart to bring that knowledge back to Mecklenburg County, we will be waiting with open arms.”
Bagbey issued the senior challenge, noting the senior class’ accomplishments such as sending a Beta team to nationals, advancing deep into Robotics competition, qualifying for the football playoffs for the first time in school history and having several members enlist in the military.
“Our challenge to the rising seniors is, never give up, and always aspire to accomplish your dreams,” he said. “It takes time, patience and a lot of self-discipline. Now I can’t say that it’s going to be easy, cause it’s not. Push yourselves, focus on the road ahead, and I promise that you’ll make it.”
Victoria Thompson accepted the challenge on behalf of the junior class.
Patricia Jackson of the Clarksville Ruritan Club recognized Owen as the Ruritan Scholar of the Year.
Dr. Chad Patton representing Southside Virginia Community College noted 12 graduating seniors earned associate’s degrees through dual enrollment.
Destiny Hargrove announced the Class of 2017’s senior gift — flowers for the gazebo.
The seniors walked across the stage and were handed their diplomas. Superintendent of Schools Paul Nichols then certified that each senior had met the requirements for graduation set forth by Mecklenburg County and the commonwealth of Virginia.
“By the power invested in me, I hereby declare the class of 2017 to be graduates of Bluestone High School,” Nichols said as the graduates turned their tassels.
Samantha Leigh Bright sang “The Alma Mater,” and Grace-Marie Rose Eckler gave the closing remarks.
“On behalf of the Bluestone High School Class of 2017, I would like to thank our friends, family and guests for gathering to celebrate our great accomplishment,” Eckler said. “Additionally, I would like to thank the Bluestone principals, faculty, staff and senior advisor sponsors for all of their dedication and support.”
Honor graduates who finished with a grade-point average of 3.7 or higher included Joseph Robert Bagbey, Tyler Bagbey, Samantha Leigh Bright, Jasemine Morgan Brown, Bryce Burke, Baylee Byrd-Roberts, Noah Hayes Carter, Cameron Driggs, Grace-Marie Rose Eckler, Alyssa Dawn Farrar, Brielle Arvionn Goodman, Dymond Alysse Gordon, Destiny Katrelle Hargrove, Shirl Elizabeth Hartsoe, Alyssa Meghan Hughes, Angelica Caroline Huston, Winston Darrell Jeffers, Terrell Maurice Jefferson, Zachary Austin McCall, Tiara De’shante Mosely, George Garland Newcomb III, Cameron Paul Owen, Maleek L. Pulliam, Sydney Dawn Smith, Brandon Spain, Alaya LeShea Sumpter, Cara Lynn Whitworth and Brianah Victoria-Seymone Young.
Junior Marshals included Tiaa Canada, Amanda Coleman, Jenna Dahl, Tajean Dixon, Katrina Ferrell, Takeya Hicks, Jazmyn Jackson, Lindsey Jones, Lainey Jones, Nya Miles, Kristopher Nelson, April Newton, Brittany Overby, Jackson Parker, Jennifer Rickman, Victoria Rickman, Michael Smith, Morgan Tharpe, Victoria Thompson and Sara Williams.