ROCKINGHAM — Hugs, handshakes and selfies marked the class of 2014’s last day as students at Richmond Senior High School on Friday night.
Green-clas graduates said they were excited and nervous at the same time upon reaching the end of their 13-year journey through the Richmond County school system. Most grads said the milestone was bittersweet.
“I don’t want to leave everybody, but I’m glad to be done,” said 18-year-old Brianna Gerald. She plans to attend Sandhills Community College in the fall and transfer to Wingate University.
Kenya Wertz, 18, said graduating was an awesome feeling. “It’s like a big weight lifting off my shoulders,” she said.
“I’ve got mixed feelings,” said Taron Melvin. “I’m excited but nervous and scared because school is over and it’s getting serious. I’ve got to start picking a profession.”
Most grads said they have definite plans after turning their tassels. Some will attend universities and community colleges, some plan to join the military and others will go straight into the work force.
As the seniors gathered in the baseball field parking lot, which served as the staging area, chants of “Fourteen, fourteen, fourteen!” broke out. Many members of Richmond Senior’s class of 2014 acknowledged Friday was the last time they’d all be together as a group.
Richmond County Schools Superintendent Dr. George Norris also called the night bittersweet.
“I love Richmond Senior High School, and this is a really special time,” said Norris. “My favorite part is to see these kids be successful. This is what it’s all about. We’ve been waiting for 13 years to make this. It’s a great feeling.”
Norris said every graduation is special, but called this class — the last he’ll see off as superintendent — the best-educated he’s ever worked with.
“I feel really good about that,” he said.
Thunder, stormclouds and flashes of lightning loomed overhead, but no one seemed to care. Friends and family members came out in droves to support their special seniors and there was no way Mother Nature was going to stop mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and close friends from cheering and taking pictures.
Salutatorian Caitlyn Adams spoke in her address about how quickly this year has flown by.
“Of course, we have been dreaming of this day,” said Adams. “We started as Wildcats, Rams, Rockets and Rebels and then became one force. Come August, every one of us will be leading a different path. Some of us will be in a different state, some hours away, some right here. I believe we are all destined for greatness.”
Valedictorian Caroline Bartlett also used the word bittersweet, calling this a time of unexplored territory.
“The world is our oyster,” Bartlett said. ” Looking back, I honestly don’t know how we survived. Being strong is the only choice you have. Our pasts have made us undefeatable. We will rattle stars and conquer evil. We will be strong and independent. No one can stop us.”
Bartlett ended her speech telling her fellow classmates to be fierce, be strong and persevere.
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-997-3111, ext. 18.