OMHS recognizes graduates in 24th annual commencement ceremony

Published 4:33 pm Friday, May 26, 2023

By NOAH WORTHAM | Staff Writer

BIRMINGHAM – Friends and family watched on excitedly as 344 graduates from Oak Mountain High School walked across the stage to accept their diplomas and say goodbye to their high school career.

Oak Mountain High School held its 24th annual commencement ceremony at the Bartow Arena in Birmingham on May 25.

OMHS Principal Andrew Gunn welcomed attendees to the ceremony.

“Everyone in this room has played a role in preparing these young men and women for the next journey in life,” he said. “We appreciate you so much and we appreciate you allowing us to work with your children over the last four years.”

Gunn continued by addressing the graduating class of 2023.

“Your teachers and I are so very excited to celebrate you and celebrate with you tonight,” he said. “We have been involved in your academic growth, we have tried to motivate you when needed and we have cared for you deeply every day. Tonight, we applaud your accomplishments (and) we hope we have played a part in preparing you for the journey ahead.”

Writer and Creative Director at Small Stories Billey Ivey spoke as the guest speaker for the ceremony and discussed the topic of doing great things.

Ivey asked students to decide what they are going to do with the rest of their lives.

“The fact of the matter is that what’s next is not always easy to determine, define or decide,” he said. “One of the most important things I’ve learned in my life thus far is that you don’t have to do something grand to do something great. Great things do not have to be big things. Simple stuff, small things make a big difference all the time.”

During commencement, salutatorian Kyle Noah Hiers delivered a moving address to the audience and his fellow graduates.

“Amidst the many remarkable individuals who have guided me on my own personal educational journey, there’s one person who stands out,” he said. A person who I believe can teach us all a lesson and has played a part in shaping, not only my life, but also the lives of those around her. That person is none other than my own mother.”

Hiers discussed the difficulties his mother faced and revealed the lessons that those in attendance could take from it.

“The journey she embarked on after the tragic loss of my father in 2011 was one that required her to juggle immense responsibilities,” he said. “As a single mother, she faced emotional and financial burdens, yet she never let those hardships deter her from her path. While working tirelessly as a childcare director, raising my brother and me, she pursued a master of arts and education in English as a second language at UAB.”

Hiers said he can recall the long nights in which his mother would study tirelessly and said that her dedication and sacrifice were all inspiring.

“After years of balancing work, motherhood and studying, she fulfilled her dream, earning her degree and embarking on a new chapter as an ESL teacher,” he said.” Fast forward to the present, and I stand here today, immensely proud of the woman my mother has become.”

Hiers said her journey taught him a valuable lesson.

“The importance of being a student throughout life, it goes beyond the walls of the classroom or the years we spend in educational institutions,” Hiers said. “It is a mindset. A hunger for knowledge and personal growth that should never wave regardless of our circumstances. As we step into the next phase of our lives, let us carry with us the torch of lifelong learning. Let us embrace the challenges that lie ahead with the same resilience and determination that my mother displayed. Our education does not end with this graduation, it is a lifelong journey.”

Hiers was met with a standing ovation from those in attendance after the delivery of his address.

Valedictorian Baylor Cate cooper delivered an address to her fellow graduates and discussed the class of 2023’s bright future.

“We are free to do whatever we want to do or be whoever we want to be,” she said. “The possibilities are endless and I implore you to seize every opportunity that comes your way. Take this last moment of security and savor it before we move on to bigger and better things.”

She asked her fellow graduates to take the time to look at the people sitting next to them.

“Do you notice it? Copper said. “It’s not so scary anymore. Little freshman me was so scared, but look at you now. You’re all amazing and I’m so proud of you. We will grow up and we will continue to grow up in the next phase of our lives. We are on our own now. We have all the tools we need to become the people that we want to be and I personally cannot wait to meet the person that you will become.”

After all students had receive the diplomas, the Oak Mountain High School class of 2023 turned over the tassels beginning the next journey in their lives and celebrated by throwing their caps in the air.