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Westover ninth-graders urged to look to the future

Westover High School ninth-graders, from left, Will Bice, Shaquan Hodges, an unidentified student and Mark Pickett sign the symbolic graduation gown at the end of Westover’s annual Commitment To Graduation Ceremony Thursday. The gown will hang in the school until the class of 2015 graduates from high school.

Westover High School ninth-graders, from left, Will Bice, Shaquan Hodges, an unidentified student and Mark Pickett sign the symbolic graduation gown at the end of Westover’s annual Commitment To Graduation Ceremony Thursday. The gown will hang in the school until the class of 2015 graduates from high school.

ALBANY — More than 300 ninth-graders sat in the Westover High School auditorium Thursday and heard one simple message — stay in school, graduate and get your diploma.

The school's Commitment to Graduate Ceremony's goal is to reach students at the crucial ninth-grade level, where barriers to graduation can first begin to appear.

Greater Second Mt. Olive Baptist Church Assistant Pastor Brandon Dotson urged the students to focus on the goal of graduation.

"Oprah Winfrey, one of the world's most wealthy women, said she felt inadequate because she did not graduate," Dotson said. "Do not let anyone or anything distract you from accomplishing your goal. You were born for success.

"It won't always be smooth sailing and it won't always be about academics. Your home life and attitude will also play major roles."

The ceremony culminated with all 316 ninth-graders signing a symbolic graduation robe, affirming their commitment to graduating on time in 2015.

The robe will be displayed at the school, and graduation coach Yolanda Skinner is suggesting to Principal William Chunn that he wear it when he hands out diplomas when the class graduates.