Cherokee High School held its graduation ceremony on June 17 at William H. Foltz Stadium, where 548 students received diplomas.
Salutatorian Joshua Wright was unable to attend the ceremony in person, but his speech was read to the graduates and their loved ones.
“This ceremony is a time to celebrate the culmination of our high school experience and the last four years of our lives,” the speech read. “I’ve immensely enjoyed my past few years at Cherokee. I hope that you can all look back positively on your time here. There were plenty of lows intermixed with highs, but each one of us has made it through to this moment.
“It is now time to go forth into the world beyond Cherokee,” Wright added. “What will that future look like? You will move on to new places and new people. As you do so, seize these opportunities, explore other parts of the world, make new connections — grow.”
Wright’s speech went on to quote a character from “The Lord of the Rings” as he noted that despite the difficulties graduates may experience while away at college, their loved ones will continue to be there for them.
“Famed hobbit Bilbo Baggins once said, ‘I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like. And I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve,’” Wright said. “These two groups don’t cover everyone in attendance — half plus less than half is less than 100 percent. I believe that Bilbo had a third group in mind; the ones you love and are truly close with.
“As you go off on your own path, especially if this path leads far from home, it can be difficult to be separated from the people you care about,” he added. “But don’t worry; you aren’t going to be doing this alone. Your friends and loved ones will be just as committed to staying connected and maintaining your relationship with them.
“So let’s reflect on the past, celebrate the present and stay connected with those we care about as we journey into the future.”
Cherokee Principal Donna Charlesworth’s speech reflected on the graduates’ final year of high school.
“Tonight is a glimpse into the future, a deep inhale of the present and one last prolonged glance at the past,” she noted. “The Class of 2022 packed the bleachers for our sports teams, concerts and shows. The magical trip to Disney capped off four years of adventures, and you danced the night away at prom, all while making an investment in your school and each other.”
Charlesworth also cited accomplishments of the graduating class.
“We had 35 DECA students at the state competition, with four earning spots at nationals,” she said. “(We also had) 25 students in the FBLA competition, with two progressing to the international competition. Two of our seniors earned full- time engineering apprenticeships with Lockheed Martin. (There were) five national merit-commended students, two national merit finalists, and yes, a national merit scholar.
“I hope the lessons that you learned help you find success, and that Cherokee pride accompanies you every step of the way,” the principal added. Once a Chief, always a Chief. On to new beginnings, Cherokee.
“Congratulations to the Class of 2022.”
After diplomas were handed out, valedictorian Kevin Archer delivered the final speech of the ceremony, one that compared the graduates’ high-school careers to the blooming of a sunflower.
“(As freshmen), we were like seeds, planted into a new environment, full of soil and nutrients to grow,” he explained. “Sophomore year (is when) we started to grow. We grew our first leaves and continued to grow our roots; we began to flower and show the world who we really are.
“Towards the end of our junior year, we all got a bit of fertilizer in the form of a driver’s license,” Archer added. “We could drive wherever we wanted and our growth from there became exponential. Then came senior year: That’s when we truly began to mature and flourish. We (were able) to experience Disney and prom.
“ … It was a year that finally seemed normal.”
Archer closed out his speech by encouraging his fellow graduates to continue growing and chasing their dreams.
“As our high-school journey is coming to a close, now is our time to look forward, as many of us are going to be transplanted into a new place with new soil,” he emphasized. “So whether your new environment may be in college, military training, vocational schooling or straight to the workforce, remember to continue growing and reaching for the sun.
“Until they are fully matured, sunflowers always point to the sun,” Archer concluded. “Likewise, you should always point toward your dreams.”