ChHS graduates class of 2018

BIRMINGHAM – A total of 277 Chelsea High School seniors walked across the stage and received their diplomas during a graduation ceremony at the Pete Hanna Center at Samford University on Tuesday, May 22.

The ChHS commencement ceremony began at 2 p.m., and began with opening remarks from ChHS senior class president Evan Mealens. Senior class vice-president Alex Rettig led the Pledge of Allegience, and members of the school’s vocal ensemble sang a rendition of “Lean on Me.”

During her address, salutatorian Autumn Pipkin spoke about what it means to be free. Pipkin said true freedom is responsibility for one’s own actions, decisions, lifestyles and the way they treat others.

“I can choose to believe I am successful, because who I am today is better than who I was yesterday, even if only by a fraction of a percent. I can choose to show kindness to everyone I meet. I can choose to be respectful and tolerant towards non-Christians, and non-heterosexuals and non-cisgender people,” Pipkin said. “I can choose to stay true to myself, or I can choose to allow myself to be stripped of my very soul.”

Valedictorian Jessica Lewis spoke about the transition from childhood to adulthood during her address.

“I cannot remember when us kids became semi-functioning adults. Maybe it was when having the most colored pencils no longer defined cool. Maybe it was when we got our first driver’s license and heard all the bad jokes,” Lewis said. “Or maybe it was when we realized that we’ll be on our own soon, not completely, but more independent than we’ve ever been before.”

Lewis encouraged her fellow graduates to learn to trust themselves and grow comfortable being who they are.

“As we head out to our future, we’ll carry the expectations of others. Just remember to do what’s best for you. Do not adhere yourself to the expectations, the morals and the judgments of others, just yourself,” Lewis said. “Don’t forget to run and play. Don’t forget to be spontaneous. Keep your friends close. Keep your heart and mind open. Keep experiencing life and

Lastly, Lewis urged her classmates to step outside of their comfort zones and embrace life.

“I want all of you to live with minimal regret and maximum joy. I want all of us to experience life to the fullest, and more,” Lewis said. “I hope that all of us will find ourselves, and all of us will conquer each challenge that comes our way. I hope that we’ll succeed by our own standards, and not the ones placed on us. And I hope that we’ll never lose our childish heart.”

Before students began walking, Principal Wayne Trucks referenced a variety of songs, including “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” “Amazing Grace,” “You Give Love a Bad Name,” and “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae,” when describing how music brings people together.

“It creates a common bond, a common experience and, once again, a common memory,” Trucks said. “At this time, at this place, we’re here to unite as a community, and as a family and as a school.”

According to Trucks, this past year has been challenging for some students, and the Chelsea community has helped them through.

“We’ve lost friends, we’ve lost family and we’ve lost loved ones who we wish were here with us,” Trucks said. “Our community, our Chelsea family, has united to provide support. As the ensemble reminds us, we all need somebody to lean on, and we found each other.

The last song Trucks referenced was the school’s Alma Mater. For some reason, Trucks joked, most students only remembered the song’s chorus, despite the fact that it has been sung at numerous athletic events and pep rallies, as well as at graduation practice. As his last gift to the class of 2018, Trucks left a copy of the song under each graduate’s seat.

“After struggles and successes, we know this is home,” Trucks said. “Although, for today, this may be goodbye and good luck, we will always remember the times that we have shared, the words we have shared and the belief we share that each day is a gift and each day is a great day to be a Hornet.”

Photos available at www.shelbycountyphotos.com