Helena Magazine

Helena High School celebrates class of 2023

Published 12:51 pm Tuesday, May 23, 2023

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By LIZZIE BOWEN | Staff Writer

HELENA – Helena High school celebrated its graduating class of 2023 in a ceremony held on Monday, May 22 at Samford University.

“We as a class have experienced our fair share of ups and downs,” Senior Class President Tanner James said. “But tonight, we gather here to celebrate the hard work, perseverance and achievements of those before us.”

Senior class officers were:

-Tanner O’Neal James as senior class president

-Harrison Carter Franks as vice president

-Emma Ruth Cunningham as secretary

-Kiley Gracey Avery as treasurer

“As I’m sure all of you are aware, our journey has only just begun,” James said. “As we embark on the next chapter of our lives, we will face new opportunities that will test our resilience, our creativity and our perseverance every single day. I implore you to rest easy as we will not face these challenges alone. We have the support of those around us today, our families, friends and teachers who have helped us get to this very room right now. Class of 2023, I challenge each of you to look at that person and enlighten them as to what an impact they had in their life.”

James quoted Winnie the Pooh: “How lucky I am to have something so special that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

“I still bare faith in every single one of you,” James said. “I have faith that you will be on billboards, magazines, movie ads and campaign signs all across the United States, and maybe even the world. What kind of legacy do you want to leave? With everything in mind, let us celebrate the conclusion of this chapter, not only with pride and joy, but especially confidence in knowing that we are strong enough to take on whatever challenges come our way.”

Next, Mayor Brian Puckett took to the podium to give the class of 2023 some words of wisdom as they embark on their next journey.

“After years of hard work and determination, you have become graduates at the end of the night at Helena High School,” Puckett said. “Graduating high school is just the beginning. It is the beginning of a new journey that will take you places that you never imagined. It is important to continue to challenge yourselves, to seek out new experiences and to never be satisfied with the status-quo.”

Following Puckett, Salutatorian Rodney Ross came to address the class of 2023 and offer words of guidance to the graduates.

“Senior class of 2023, we did it,” Ross said. “This year has been 12 years in the making. We can’t let this moment pass without recognizing the dedication, perseverance and sacrifice it took to get to this moment.”

Ross shared one of his favorite moments of his senior year was being crowned as homecoming king, coming close to the moment he is experiencing right now as a high school senior.

“I am here tonight to tell you, it is going to be okay,” Ross said. “Our time at Helena High School has taught us how to keep going even throughout the toughest time. High school has helped us grow into the people we are today. With the help of our teachers and our parents, we have gone from young children playing on the playground to young men and women in society.”

Valedictorian Sydney Paige Risch came next to speak to the Helena High School graduating class of 2023.

“I am honored to be here in front of all of your tonight,” Risch said. “I know it probably wasn’t much of a shock to all of you when I was announced as this year’s valedictorian. It has been my goal since I was in the sixth grade. I want to thank my teachers, administrators, distinguished guests, friends and family for helping us all make it here today. Our high school experience truly was like no other.”

The ceremony proceeded with the walk of graduates. During this ceremony, senior Khalia Smith, who died just weeks before graduation in a car accident, was met with a standing ovation from all present as her name was called.

The ceremony ended with graduates excitedly tossing their caps into the air, anxiously awaiting a new beginning of their lives.