HAMLET — The Richmond Early College High School Class of 2023 walked across the stage at Cole Auditorium Friday evening, earning both a diploma and associate degree.
Principal Joy Smart commended the students on not only completing both high school and community college coursework, but doing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
During her speech, Smart referenced the Miley Cyrus song “The Climb.”
“You entered ninth grade thinking, ‘I can almost see it, those dreams I’m dreaming.’ And then came March of 2020. And all of a sudden it became, ‘Every step I’m taking, every move I make, I feel lost with no direction.’
But despite everything, Smart added, the students kept pushing on.
“Your hard part is done, because, at an earlier age than most of us, you have learned that despite battles you face, you have the perseverance, integrity and determination that life requires of all of us,” Smart said.
The principal then outlined three life lessons she believed the students learned during their journey: adaptability; finding new sources of motivation; and that everyone experiences failures — “…and that’s OK. What makes you better and stronger is how you react to those.”
According to Smart, 63% of the students will be continuing their education, 30% will begin their careers and a few are still deciding: “But I have no doubt that you will figure that out soon.”
“You will soon learn that life is a lesson itself,” Smart concluded. “I challenge you to enjoy life and to embrace every lesson that it presents you.”
Junior marshals were: Nadira Brown; Nathan Cloninger; Katlyn Defoe; Sophia Frank; Bailey Hughes; Payton Ledwell; Cheyenne McDonald; Connor McLaughlin; Maggie Moss; William Whitley; and Eden Williamson.
See photos from the graduation ceremony below. The Richmond Observer will have more photos from after the ceremony.