May 26—HENDERSON — Seniors exited the school's gymnasium one diploma and one rose richer Wednesday following Vance County High School's commencement exercise.
Class representative Karla Cruz-Ochoa delivered a speech bidding farewell to the class and school, noting something that makes the Class of 2022 stand out, especially.
"Let me be the first to point out that this is a very unique class," Cruz-Ochoa said, "because we are the only graduating class to have started in the ninth grade at Vance County High School, and not at Southern or Northern Vance High."
In 2018, Vance County Schools voted to consolidate Northern and Southern Vance high schools into Vance County High.
"However, coming into Vance County High School in 2018," Cruz-Ochoa continued, "we did not know what to expect. Some of us came from Eaton-Johnson, [Henderson Middle School] and other schools still. We fled to those who we were familiar with and shunned others who weren't. But eventually, the lines blurred between us and we became a living family of Vipers."
Cruz-Ochoa said the class, together, had "made lasting friendships, developed genuine relationships with our teachers, cried together, celebrated together, and sometimes we even got suspended together."
Cruz-Ochoa continued, giving thanks to principal Rey Horner, "who although tough at times, we know it has been because he truly wants the best for each of us."
The Class of '22's senior rep also thanked the teachers for keeping she and her peers on the path to success, whether they via virtual or in-person methods.
"And last, but most important, I would like to thank our parents," Cruz-Ochoa said. "On behalf of the class of 2022, I would like to say thank you to all the parents who supported us on our journey so far and believed in us even in those challenging moments where we felt like giving up. We could have not done this without you."
Erich MacLaren followed Cruz-Ochoa and gave bits of advice to the graduating class, such as, "Don't worry about the future," and that an individual's real troubles are the problems "that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday," not problems constantly crossing one's worried mind.
MacLaren also encouraged the graduating seniors to use sunscreen, to "Remember to get plenty of calcium," and to "Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're gone."
"Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have children. Maybe you won't. Maybe you'll divorce at 40," MacLaren said. "Whatever you do, do not congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance, and so are everybody else's."
Horner commended the student body for their academic achievements.
"These students who sit before you today are ready to take their place among the many graduates who have gone out and accomplished great things," Horner said. "These students will go on to become the leaders of tomorrow — some in academia, some in the military, some in the nation's workforce."
Later, Horner gave some advice to the seniors.
"Take a moment to reflect on all the events that brought you to this point in life," the principal said. "Reflect on those who believed in you, comforted you, and the times in which you encouraged yourself. Take with you the knowledge and experiences which have gotten you to this point, and learn from them, and build on them as you move ahead in life."
After all was said, the senior class took turns to receive their diplomas and a bouquet of flowers from Horner and Cindy Bennett, the Vance County Schools Superintendent.
Parents were encouraged to show their support with cheer and applause, a request they fulfilled with gusto.
The Vance County Early College High School graduation ceremony was held Wednesday evening. Coverage of the event can be found in Saturday's Dispatch.