Home Lifestyle Class of ’24 graduates from Richmond Senior

Class of ’24 graduates from Richmond Senior

Zane Searcy, president of the Senior Senate, addresses his fellow students in the Richmond Senior High School Class of 2024. Photos by William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — With the traditional turning of the tassel, the 12th-graders of Richmond Senior High School became graduates Friday evening.

Some students were already behind the field house by 6:30 p.m. as the rest of their cohorts in the class of 2024 slowly trickled in over the next hour.

When it came time to line up, several soon-to-be graduates were still stuck in traffic, which led to the commencement starting a little late.

Once all had arrived, “Pomp and Circumstance” blared over the speakers of Raider Stadium as the seniors marched onto the track, led by the Raider Battalion Army JROTC color guard and members of the Richmond County Board of Education.

Students were walking onto the track as the procession looped back around to the field house, before taking their seats on the football field.

“Thirteen years to be sitting right here, to celebrate from the moment you entered as a 5-year-old in kindergarten, to the day you finished elementary school and went off to middle school, Ninth Grade Academy, and then out to Richmond Senior High School,” Principal Jim Butler said as he addressed his students.

“You faced many, many things,” Butler continued. “When the most important thing used to be ‘When do I get to have a nap?’, ‘Who’s got my juice box?”, to facing down a worldwide pandemic.

“You’ve seen a lot. But after that 13 years, here you are.”

Butler said if he could give the graduates any advice: “It’s to take your time. Don’t be in a hurry. Relish this moment tonight.”

Before his long career in education, Butler sat on the field for his own graduation in 1982. He was also there for his sons’ graduations in 2010 and 2013.

Butler’s first graduation as principal was in 2017.

Friday was his eighth in that role — and his last.

“Congratulations to the class of ‘24,” Butler concluded. “I’m proud to have been your principal, for you to finish, for me to finish, and I want us to go out strong. You’ve been a great group — we’re proud of you.”

Prior to walking across the stage, the students also heard from Zane Searcy, president of the Senior Senate.

“This day is a day we’ve all been waiting for since we began our academic journey,” Searcy said.

His speech was on “What is so special about Richmond Senior High School? … What is that ‘Raider Magic?’”


“Being a part of so many clubs, extracurriculars, sports and activities have allowed me the opportunity to see, listen and be around other schools,” Searcy said. “While these schools … may be similar to us in many ways, there is one thing that is so very different about Richmond Senior High School — our sense of community, our sense of connection, and our sense of togetherness.”

When Searcy and the rest of the Class of 2024 started high school, they were completely online due to the pandemic.

“COVID-19 disrupted our way of life, our norms and how we operate,” he said. “We, as students, had to adapt and change the way we learn. Being online stripped us of what makes school fun — couldn’t see our friends face to face, couldn’t have the events and activities that livened up the school year, and couldn’t participate in the clubs, sports and classes that we love at school.

“That time was hard for all of us — but we made it through,” Searcy continued. “We succeeded, we adapted, and today we have graduated.”

Searcy said, looking back, he believes they made it through because they relied on each other.

“I think that we came together as a community and decided that we were going to make it work,” he said. “… Our strength is in our community.”

Searcy said it seems that “Raider Magic shines in the darkest times.”

“We as a Raider community have continually rallied around each other to provide each other uplifting support,” he said.

Later, as the students walked across the stage, each handed Butler a small plastic duck or flamingo, which weighed down his pockets by the end of the night.

After turning their tassels, the lights in the stadium went dark for the traditional post-graduation fireworks show. Following that, the graduates were greeted by family and friends with balloons, flowers and other gifts.

The RO will have more photos in the coming days.