Vincent Class of 2023’s legacy celebrated at graduation

Published 1:02 pm Wednesday, May 24, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

VINCENT – Rain showers on Tuesday, May 23 looked to put a dampen on Vincent Middle High School’s graduation ceremony, but the skies cleared just in time for the festivities at the Vincent football stadium.

The night was not just a celebration of the Class of 2023 and what they had accomplished, but also a reflection on the last four years that they spent at Vincent.

After SGA President Mark Morris and principal Lauren Yancey welcomed the friends and family who filled the stands and spilled out along the fences, Salutatorian Blake Allums used his address to do just that.

He reflected on the seniors’ memories on the field, from middle school P.E. class to the COVID-19 pandemic to their athletic accomplishments in senior year: a football state playoffs appearance with Allums as quarterback, a Sweet 16 berth in boys basketball and, just last week, the Jackets’ first baseball state championship appearance in 21 years.

Allums used those memories to remind the seniors not to miss the moments they live in every day with a short poem.

“Whenever I was five, I wished to be ten because that’s double digits,” Allums said. “My mom told me, ‘Don’t wish time away.’ When I was ten, I wished to be 13 because then I’m an official teenager. My mom told me, ‘Don’t wish time away.’ When I was 13, I wished to be 18 to finally be an adult. My mom always told me, ‘Don’t wish time away.’ Now I’m 18. Wishing to be 13. Wishing to be ten. Wishing to be five.”

Valedictorian Amy Kirk name-dropped Maya Angelou, Waze and rapper Russ while she challenged her classmates to choose to make a positive impact on the world.

“Our entire lives up to this point have been dictated by someone else,” Kirk said. “Now there will be no excuse as to what’s holding us back. We aren’t stuck under our parents’ roof anymore. We don’t have to come to this school every day anymore. That means no one will be accountable for us.

“So, do something with that. Do what brings you true joy, content and happiness. Fill your days with the moments that take your breath away. Nobody knows what the future holds for you or who you may influence along the way.”

She also echoed Allums’ call to not miss the journey on the way to life’s destinations.

“I know it’s become a cliché thing to say that life is a journey, not the destination. But I like to think of it as when you type in an address and to the GPS system where you’ve never been before and you put fastest route and the next thing you know, you’re on the interstate. Or you might be on a backroads seeing things that you would have never seen otherwise. Especially when you’re using Waze, you’ll probably end up in someone’s backyard.

“So, with that, be your own GPS, find your own route, and by then, your original destination might be irrelevant.”

Allums then had the privilege of introducing his basketball coach, John Hadder, as the commencement speaker.

Hadder, who announced his retirement on April 27 and also served as Vincent’s athletic director, urged the Class of 2023 to stay dedicated and hard working as they move on to their next step. Hadder said he often told his teams that winning was fun, but it required hard work.

He pointed to great historical figures who needed to overcome rejection and hardship to succeed.

“Dr. Seuss’s first book was rejected 23 times,” Hadder said. “Henry Ford went broke five times before making money on automobiles. Walt Disney’s creations were once considered a total failure. History is filled with examples of people whose persistence and determination paid off. Embrace your failures as valuable lessons; they will shape your character.”

He asked the graduates to reconsider how they could best leave an impact on the world.

“If you think you can’t make a difference in the way things are in the world. Wrong,” Hadder said. “You can make the biggest difference of all. You can change yourself. And when you do that, you become a very powerful and important force.

“Make a difference. Each one of you has the power to make a difference in the world. Whether they are big or small, your actions can have a profound impact on individuals, communities, and society as a whole. Many of you have already impacted this community and school in a positive way. And for that, we are thankful.”

The graduates’ impact could be seen throughout the rest of the ceremony. Many of the families in attendance applauded for multiple graduates, showing the tightknit community of the town of Vincent on full display.

Vincent media specialist Mary Young had to hold back tears when mentioning the graduates’ impact on her life. After she presented the graduates, Young received a hug from senior vice president Anna Nsato, one that no doubt was on behalf of all of the seniors.

Nsato capped off the ceremony by leading the alma mater. As the audience sang along, what the speakers harped on rang true: this class had left an impact on the town and school that will last for years to come.