Graduates bid farewell to Park View

Park View High School hosted its 62nd Commencement ceremony on Saturday morning with nearly 200 Class of 2017 graduates crossing the stage and receiving their diplomas.
Park View High School Principal Dr. Darnell Carter opened Saturday’s program by welcoming the enormous crowd that turned out for the event, calling the gathering a “momentous occasion.”
Co-valedictorians, Kirsten Bailey and Emily Cooke, were recognized for their achievement of earning the highest grade point averages in their graduating class. The pair offered speeches.
Bailey, whose mother Wanda serves on the Mecklenburg County School Board and could be seen diligently watching her daughter’s speech from the stands, delivered the first valedictory address.
“It is such an honor to be standing before you as one of the co-valedictorians of the class of 2017,” Bailey said upon taking the podium.
She recalled sitting the stands of a Park View graduation ceremony years ago watching her sister deliver a valedictory speech of her own.
“I told myself then that I would not stop until I reached the same point,” she said.
Bailey thanked those in attendance as well as all the teachers, administrators, coaches, parents, friends, siblings and teammates, as well as her family, God and her boyfriend, for their support.
“You all have made me into the person I am today,” she said.
She next spoke to her classmates.
“Our time as students here cannot be summed up in the short amount of time that I have to speak today,” she said. “We have laughed until we cried, and probably more times than not, we have cried until we have laughed. We have sat through every lecture possible and aced every exam, or maybe not so much. We have cheered on the sidelines, we have danced the night away at prom and taken countless pictures. We have memories that no amount of time or space can ever erase.
“Today, we celebrate not just the end of our high school careers, but the beginning of the rest of our lives. Never lose sight of who you are, and live everyday in pursuit of what sets your heart on fire. What lies before you or behind you is nothing compared to what lies within you.”
Cooke, who delivered the second of the valedictory speeches, took the podium next.
She also thanked teachers, coaches, parents, friends and family for their support.
”Graduation day is always a day of mixed emotions,” Cooke said, explaining that although students were excited to move on, certain aspects of high school would be missed.
“Today is reminder that change in inevitable,” she told her classmates. “It is inevitable that the Class of 2017 will discover new relationships, new routines and new responsibilities. It is inevitable that we will face many new challenges. It is even inevitable that you will forget this speech, yet always remember our times here in the halls and classrooms of Park View High School. Some of us will move on to college, some of us will start our careers, some of us will serve our country and protect the freedoms we all love.”
She then quoted Abraham Lincoln, saying, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”
Both valedictorians exited the stage following their speeches to a roar of applause and cheers from the crowd.
Additionally, Honor Graduates, who received a gold medal, were recognized and included Kathryn Akers-Pecht, Jasmine Aleman, Korynn Anderson, Kirsten Bailey, Peyton Brown, Emily Cooke, Jacob Creedle, Caylee Farmer, Alyssa Fleming, Conner Franck, Jasmine Garnes, Christian Guynn, Jessica Lehman, Lindsey Moody, John Olsoe, Samantha Pearce, Camden Powers, Dylan Shafer, Madilynne Tanner and Olivia Tanner.
Michelle Edmonds also specially recognized students who received Southside Virginia Community College Associate’s Degrees, in addition to recognizing all dual enrollment students and all student members of the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Program.
Before the program began, class members, alumni, family members and all others in the audience observed a brief moment of silence for a fallen class member, Michael Loving, who passed away in February of 2016.
Asked to stand and also be recognized were members of the Mecklenburg County School Board, local town councils, Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors and veterans and members of America’s armed forces.
School Board Chairman Brent Richey also spoke at the start of the ceremony. He congratulated the parents of the graduating seniors, saying to them, “Your child’s success here today is the proof of your labor as a parent.”
He next turned his attention to the graduates, quoting an economist and telling them, “Ideas are everywhere, knowledge is rare.”
“This next stage you are about to enter will be the greatest opportunity in your life to acquire that knowledge. Please don’t squander it,” Richey advised. “And in the end, if you find it in your heart to bring that knowledge back to Mecklenburg County, we will be waiting with open arms.”
Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors Chairman Glenn Barbour, a past graduate of Park View High, also spoke Saturday.
“On behalf of the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors, we want to extend our congratulations to you all,” he told the Class of 2017.