TCC Commencement honors Class of 2023

May 23—THOMASVILLE- Saturday morning the Thomas County Central Class of 2023 graduated at the Jacket's Nest, while surrounded by friends, family and teachers who supported them along the way.

The ceremony began with the processional led by Superintendent Lisa Williams, followed by Principal Jamie Thompson and other Board of Education members. Once all of the graduates were seated, the TCCHS Army JROTC presented the colors, before turning it over to honor graduate Caleb Kinneer.

"After all the mornings we've spent as high schoolers, all the mornings we've woken up to see our teachers and friends, this is the last one," Kinneer said. "Recognizing our diversity, beliefs, values and traditions, but honoring our unity and gratitude, I invite you to reflect on what this event represents."

Kinneer explained the graduation ceremony was the accumulation of 12 years of hard work and determination, laughs and growth. It was also the start of a transition of life without high school.

"As we make this transition, I hope we can be guided onto the right path toward our individual passions, responsibilities and hopes," he said. "For all of us, I hope we can be grateful for what this morning represents and our gratitude can be extended to our friends, family and teachers, who helped make this day possible."

Following a round of applause, Class President Morgan Loper welcomed the crowd to the graduation ceremony, thanking each and every person who had played a role in their lives, helping them get to where they are today.

Loper then passed the microphone to Class Vice-President, Cayla Martin, who introduced the members of the Thomas County Board of Education, along with administrators at TCCHS.

Martin concluded the introductions by welcoming Salutatorian Bishop Jackson to the stage to share the importance of an "elementary mindset."

Jackson began by thanking his family and teachers who helped along the way, including his elementary school teachers.

He shared an inspirational quote from fictional character, Andy Bernard of NBC's The Office, who said, "I wish there was a way to know you're in the good ole days, before you actually left them."

Jackson said he considered himself lucky, because this year he had the opportunity to come full circle and revisit the "good ole days."

"This year I worked every school day for two hours as a videographer at Cross Creek Elementary School," he explained. "Every day I walked in the front door, it felt like I was stepping into a time machine. Even the cafeteria and lunchroom look exactly the same as I remember."

Jackson shared that he worked with the third and fourth grade students, attempting to keep them involved and motivated, which was not difficult, because they loved to see themselves on camera.

"Making these videos for the past nine months, these kids probably taught me more than I taught them," he said. "Even though we, the Class of 2023, have grown and matured since elementary school, maybe we can teleport eight years into the past and learn something from those children and our former selves."

Jackson went on to explain the first thing, he and many others, could learn is to always keep a positive attitude.

"Talking to those children, I would never know if they just got in trouble in class or if they just fell on the playground, and sadly which children don't have a meal to come to at home," he said. "Kids are truly masters of emphasizing the positive points in life."

Bishop reminded the Class of 2023 that as they move into the next chapter of life, they will face trials and moments where the world seems out to get them, but the best course of action may be to follow the example of elementary school students, who seem to grin and bear it.

"The second thing the students taught me is to stay curious," Jackson said. "They are not afraid to ask whatever is on their mind."

Admittedly, Bishop said he would sometimes tire of the kids' questions, but they showed a genuine curiosity about the world around them.

"As we all experience true independence for the first time, remember to stay curious and stay open to new opportunities and new perspectives that are different from those of our South Georgia bubble," he said.

Jackson concluded with his final lesson learned from the kids at Cross Creek Elementary: not succumbing to failure.

"In reality, failure is not an objective truth; it is a mindset," he said. "After four years of high school, it's easy to think failure is getting the wrong answer, but in life, failure is when you stop trying to get the right one."

Jackson challenged his fellow classmates to stay positive and persist through failure, just like the kids of Cross Creek.

Following a rousing round of applause, Valedictorian Jay "Campbell" Smith took the podium, where he thanked the community for the impact they've made in his life, specifically the teachers who helped him along the way.

"As the graduating class, we are the sum of these individuals and the support they have offered us," he said. "As we proceed to our post-secondary futures, we will represent them, one another and the experiences we have all shared."

Smith, much like Bishop, shared a maxim with his classmates, choosing a line from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Smith challenged his classmates to look around and see the community they have cultivated over the past four years of high school.

Smith recounted some of the graduate's greatest athletic and academic achievements, sighting the community of classmates they had cheering them on.

"The Yellow Jacket achievements culminate today, when we gather around as a community to see how far we have all come," he pointed out.

Smith explained that their high school journey had been defined by unique circumstances due to the novel Coronavirus, but this time of solitude showed just how important community was.

He honored three TCC teachers who passed away due to COVID-19, saying it would have not been possible to overcome this tragedy without a supportive community.

"Taking steps to realize our aspirations, we will encounter new challenges that demand a similar strength, and communities that will be ours to cultivate," Smith said. "Although our communities will develop from a new starting point, I submit again that they begin when we stop and look around."

Smith encouraged everyone to look toward ways to get involved with those who share similar goals and aspirations, as they will be their new community.

Upon the conclusion of Smith's speech, Thompson presented the Class of 2023 as candidates for diplomas. Williams accepted the Class of 2023, awarding them with diplomas, before students turned their tassels and celebrated by throwing their caps in the air.