‘Finishing strong’: Calera High School celebrates class of 2023 graduates
Published 9:09 am Thursday, May 25, 2023
By EMILY SPARACINO | Special to the Reporter
PELHAM – The members of Calera High School’s Class of 2023 cemented their place in history as a group that overcame many challenges to achieve remarkable success.
Surrounded by their families, friends and teachers, the students reflected on their journey through high school during a global pandemic and all of their accomplishments in spite of it at a graduation ceremony held at the Pelham Civic Complex and Ice Arena on Tuesday, May 23.
“Because of the difficulties, our accomplishments become so much sweeter,” Valedictorian Kendyl Massey said. “Without the prominence of change in our adolescence, we wouldn’t have grown to be the young adults we are today.”
Massey noted her classmates’ excellence academically, artistically and athletically, as well as their ability to adapt to changes and overcome hardships to succeed.
“I am so thankful to have grown up with this class, in this place,” Massey said. “I know that the future holds something special for every last one of us. I hope that wherever we end up, we all remember that what we do matters, and the best way to move through this life is flying as one.”
Salutatorian Tamyrah Hughes also emphasized her classmates’ special talents and how seven words—milestones, relationships, sacrifice, temptations, adversity, failure and perseverance—play important roles in their lives.
“Each one of us has an essence that someone or something else needs,” Hughes said, and quoted 2 Timothy 1:7, which reads, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” “Everything happens for a reason, and each and every single one of you sitting in those seats were destined to be there.”
Hughes said her parents are her biggest inspiration and, through their unconditional love and support, have helped her become who she is today.
Although her father passed away last year, Hughes said she still finds joy each day and often thinks about what he told her as a child.
“My dad told me with anything in life, you have to finish strong,” Hughes said. “This is for you, Dad. This is me finishing strong.”
CHS Principal Chris Myles said resiliency and tenacity are two words he would use to describe the Class of 2023.
“Freshman year, you were met with a challenge that the world didn’t know how to address,” Myles said. “We sent you home for an extended spring break, one that lasted all the way into your sophomore year. Education took on a different look as we worked to remember the difference between traditional school and virtual school, neither of which were ‘traditional.’”
Myles said the class began to gain momentum going into their junior year, showing their determination to make the most of their high school years, regardless of COVID-19.
“Your persistence is another word that fits this class well and probably the one that I’ll remember you most by,” he said, adding that their leadership has trickled down to the underclassmen at CHS. “I am so proud of how you have led and transformed our school the past four years. I expect nothing less in the next phase of your life. Our future is bright because of each of you.”
Myles said the Class of 2023 has 29 honor graduates, the largest number of honor graduates Calera High School has ever had. To qualify as an honor graduate, a student must maintain a 4.0 or higher grade point average.
Myles also recognized the students who are headed to the military, as well as those who received scholarships.
As of May 23, the CHS Class of 2023 had received a total of $9,307,853 in scholarships, the most scholarship money earned by any class in the school’s history.
Before receiving their diplomas, the students heard a commencement address from outgoing CHS secretary Brandi Pardue, a CHS Class of 1999 graduate.
“While I don’t teach, I always say we have Life 101 for those kids that I’m blessed to have as office aides each year,” Pardue said. “This year was no different, and your class most definitely will go down as one of my all-time favorite classes.”
Pardue urged the students to not be afraid to fail, think before they speak, step outside of their comfort zones, give their all in everything they do, power through to the finish and stay true to themselves.
“I am so very proud of you,” Pardue said. “Congratulations, Class of ’23. I love you all so very much, and I wish you nothing but love and success.”