Nearly 400 graduate from Thompson

Thompson graduates give their classmate Josh Carden a standing ovation as he receives his diploma. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

May 25 was a bittersweet evening for outgoing Thompson High School Principal Robin Thomas, as he presided over his last graduation as leader of the school.

Thomas, who will begin his job as the Shelby County School District’s high school coordinator at the end of the month, said the graduation carried more emotions than usual as he prepared to distribute diplomas to the 393-member class of 2011.

“It’s always with mixed emotions that we come to this graduation,” Thomas said. “It’s with mixed emotions for me, because I will be leaving on Friday to begin my job as high school coordinator with Shelby County Schools. It has been my pleasure to serve as your principal.

“We are truly proud of you, seniors, for your accomplishment tonight,” Thomas added.

The graduation ceremony nearly filled Pelham’s Verizon Wireless Music Center, and featured commentary from the senior class leaders and highest achievers.

Thompson High School graduates sing the school song at the end of the ceremony. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

A graduate gestures to the crowd after receiving his diploma during the Thompson High School graduation on May 26 at the Verizon Wireless Ampitheater in Pelham. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Class President Katie Ethridge shared her memories of her classmates, and urged her classmates to remember those who helped them get to where they are today.

“You are the ones I grew up with. You are the ones I finally made it to high school with. You cheered with me at all the football, basketball and even soccer games,” Ethridge said to her classmates. “You are my shoulder to cry on and my rock when I was unsteady.

“Don’t take a single moment for granted,” she added. “Remember all the people who shaped you, taught you and molded you into what you are today.”

Ethridge said she is looking forward to beginning college at the University of Mississippi, but she said the departure from Alabaster will be bittersweet.

“I’ve been ready to go to college since I first visited Ole Miss,” Ethridge said. “But there is a part of me that is sad to leave it all behind.

“It is because of you all and Jesus Christ that I stand here before you now,” Ethridge added. “Make mistakes and have no regrets. I’d hate for you to look back after 30 years and have a life of what-ifs.”

Valedictorian Scott Lawley praised his classmates for overcoming great obstacles to reach graduation night.

“We have practiced this routine all our lives. We have learned to get back up when we fall,” Lawley said. “Life is not always going to be easy.”

Lawley also praised the class for working to raise more than $12,000 to help build a new house for one of their classmates, Josh Carden, who has cerebral palsy and also graduated during the ceremony.

Josh Carden wheels across the stage in order to pick up his diploma during the ceremony. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

The valedictorian challenged the class to follow their life goals and to never conform to others’ labels.

“This is a huge achievement tonight,” Lawley said. “Don’t fit the label that someone else has given you. Do what is right and what fits your own image.”