At the culmination of their high school careers, Southwestern High School graduates encouraged their fellow classmates to stay true to themselves as they move into the next chapter of their lives.

At the graduation held Sunday afternoon, South-western High School had 221 graduates, 49 scholarship recipients, which came to around $1.2 million amassed in monies, 15 Commonwealth Diploma recipients which came to 6.8 percent of the class (the state average is 2 to 3 percent), with 22 students graduating with a 3.8 grade point average or above.

“We’re preparing to enter a world of independence,” said Jacinda Haynes, valedictorian of the class of 2006. “ ... The reality is as excited as we are, most of us are scared.”

Haynes then encouraged her classmates as they go forward to stay true to themselves and not to let their spirits fade.

“I pray each of you succeed in whatever you do,” said Haynes. “Congratulations, class of 2006, we did it!”

“For the past 13 years we’ve all been on a journey. We were given the opportunity to explore our interests and find what we enjoy,” said Kendra Daws, senior class president. “We are at a point of a new journey in life.”

She added that along the journey known as life, each moment of everyday experiences teach everyone who they really are.

Meanwhile, while Haynes and Daws were glancing at the future, salutatorian Macklin “Mackey” Gaskin gave credit to the people who helped them get through their high school careers. He said at some point they all had received a push from someone whether it be a friend, parent or teacher, and that helped them get where they all were at (graduation).

“Eventually it will be up to us to push others forward and I know we will,” said Gaskin.

As the event came to a close, Haynes was able to speak one last time to her fellow classmates as their leader in another capacity — president of student government executive council.

“No matter what happens, guys,” said Haynes. “Stay you, love you all.”

Superintendent Tim Eaton handed out diplomas during the ceremony, while assistant superintendents Marlene Haney and Steve Butcher, along with Pulaski County School Board members Phillip Wilson, chairman; Helen Hansford, vice-chairman; William White, Betty Richards and Allen Larkin were in attendance.

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