By HEATHER TOMLINSON, CJ Staff Writer Commonwealth Journal
Pomp and Circumstance? How about the Harlem Shake?
All 252 students making up the Southwestern High School Class of 2013 opted to let loose Friday evening with their own version of the dance craze that has been at the top of viral video searches for months now in celebration of their move from high school and into the world beyond.
And why shouldn’t they? This year’s class graduates saw an impressive 199 of its members graduate as college and career ready, which means they’re prepared to take the next step in either post-secondary education or a chosen career. The initiative is the center of Kentucky’s newest testing system, and local high schools strive to prepare their students for the first step beyond high school.
But that isn’t the only claim to fame the SWHS Class of 2013 can boast.
“Over the years, we’ve seen academic success with a record number of governor’s scholars, high (Advanced Placement) pass rates, and millions of dollars in scholarships earned, along with success in other areas, like high community involvement, and sports with a national cheerleading championship victory,” said Class President Cory Owens during his humorous, yet insightful address. “I am proud to be a part of the Southwestern class of 2013.”
Class Salutatorian Marie Angeles shed more light on those achievements, stating that the class sent no fewer than 15 students through the stringent Kentucky Governors’ Scholar program in summer 2012, had 38 students pass the Advanced Placement U.S. History test (which earned those students college credits), saw the volleyball team attend five state championships, and watched as the Southwestern High School Cheerleading Team – with several seniors on board – brought home a national championship.
“ … We became bound and determined to become the best class that this school has ever graduated, and we did,” said Angeles, to cheers from her classmates. “We began … with high expectations and even higher dreams.”
During Friday’s ceremony, seven students were also recognized as receiving Commonwealth Diplomas, considered the most difficult diplomas to achieve, and the most prestigious, thanks to stringent class credit requirements, including the required completion of a minimum number of AP classes, GPA requirements, and more.
Those students recognized were Benjamin Andrews, Marie Angeles, Faith Call, Gracie Curry, Jessica Sierra-Dominguez, Ariana Noguera-Molina, and Kari Popplewell.
A number of students were also recognized as scholarship recipients, and Doug Grider, SWHS senior guidance counselor, stated the class accepted a staggering $3,150,206 in scholarship aid out of an offered $4.6 million.
The theme of the night was change, and Angeles emphasized that, despite the achievements of the Class of 2013, they’ll be remembered more for what they do beyond high school.
“I encourage you to extend your reach beyond the standards of society,” said Angeles, in her closing. “I encourage you to chase your dreams. I encourage you to persevere when times are difficult and to be thankful when times are good.
“Even though we have achieved great feats over the past few years, remember this: We are not defined by assessments, the number of points we score during a game, or by our popularity, like most students are disillusioned to believe, but our conviction, by our actions, and our character and integrity.”
Valedictorian Faith Call had much of the same sentiments in her own address, and she asked that her fellow students remember to appreciate the little things in their lives as they move toward their prospective goals – whether it is a post-secondary education, a career, a family, or something else. Call likened their movement from high school into the world beyond as a new flight of stairs, one to be tackled and defeated.
“The sun is setting on one stage in your life,” said Call. “Tomorrow, when the sun rises and shines on a new flight of stairs in your life, applaud the new beginning. Hold your head high, and take the first step, like a Warrior.
“In your future, I wish you the best,” Call said in her closing. “I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright, I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more. I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive, I wish you enough pain so that the sun … I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting, I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you have, I wish you enough hellos to get you through the goodbyes.
“This is a final goodbye. Congratulations, Southwestern Class of 2013,” Call finished.