One Deerfield-Windsor School student sports a different type of head gear than his fellow classmates after some of the students decided to toss their graduation caps prior to the end of Sunday’s ceremony.
"Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one remembers to turn on the light." -- J.K. Rowling.
ALBANY, Ga. -- Author Rowling's quote adorned the top of Sunday's graduation program and summed up the theme of the day: That, yes, graduation ends one chapter in students' lives, but turns the page to so many more. "Commencement" lives up to its definition by marking the beginning of a bright future ahead to those who are willing to work for it.
Sunday was Deerfield-Windsor School's time to celebrate the achievements of its Class of 2012. Seventy-one students marched across the stage to receive their diplomas, but not without first taking time to reflect on their years in high school and to say thank you to the people who have helped them reach this point.
Walking into the school, Darton-bound student Miranda Phillips smiled proudly as she adjusted her graduation cap's tassel and walked into her alma mater for the last time as a student. When asked what her special memories of senior year include, she said, "The people are what make it nice -- I really appreciate how the faculty here at Deerfield has really made us all feel special. This entire year has seemed like it was all about the seniors and they helped make it memorable."
As hundreds of family, friends and classmates filled the W.T. Henry Gymnasium, the students received their last marching orders from graduation director Debbie Allen, and then prepared to take their last walk together as a class. Some chose to showcase Deerfield-Windsor's school colors from red bow ties to one graduate's crutches decorated in red and blue duck taped-stripes.
To open the ceremony, graduate Rebecca Allen said in her invocation: "We cherish this day and thank the remarkable friends, family and mentors who have helped us along the way. We hope that we can take the gifts cultivated here and use them to change our world."
As part of that change, the senior class presented its gift to the school. Students Parks Pace and John Riles represented their classmates as they unveiled this year's gift: a new school mascot uniform. "Deerfield has a rich athletic tradition and we hope that this gift will enhance school spirit and enthusiasm," Pace said.
In her address, salutatorian Emily Graf evoked the day's running theme when she said, "The elevator to success is out of order. You'll have to use the stairs ... one step at a time." "Yes," Graf said, "we have had a lot of "lasts" this year -- the last prom, recital or football game -- but we are getting ready to say hello to so many "firsts" that are waiting for us. We have worked hard to become who we are and our future is out there waiting for us if we're just willing to work for it and take the stairs."
Valedictorian and Star Student Christopher Michas spoke of the importance of improvisation in life -- of realizing that life is not going to always turn out exactly as planned, and it's vital to be able to change and adapt to whatever happens. "Life's events are not unrelated; like improv, they build on each other and become whatever you make it -- you're only limited by yourself. I hope that college is not the best time of your lives because I hope that you will always take whatever comes, continue building on it and making it better, for the rest of your lives."
Numerous awards for excellence were presented at Sunday's ceremony. Rebecca Allen received the Charles E. Hawkins Award for Excellence in Arts. Her award-winning portrait is now one of three that are on display at the school. Parks Pace received the W.T. Henry Knight of Valor Award for his admirable school spirit, fortitude and positive attitude. Amber Young was given the Russell Grace Jr. Service Award for her contribution to school life, and Candace Cosby was the recipient of the Graham Lowe Award for high academic achievement, a spirit of cooperation and character.
As Principal David L. Davies stood to address the students, he lauded their academic and athletic achievements but also said, "What I am most proud of with this class is their unselfishness and cohesiveness as a group. We had two new students join us for their senior year, and I challenge you to try and pick them out from the ones who have been at this school since kindergarten. This group has embraced everyone and I know they are going to go on to do great things."