Charles City graduates instructed to dream big, overcome negativity
The message to 39 graduates of Charles City High School’s Class of 2018 was simple: Don’t let negativity derail your dreams.
Family, friends, educators, and supporters filled Charles City High School’s gymnasium Saturday morning to send the Class of 2018 off in style.
After a welcome from senior class president Charles Brown III, salutatorian Matthew Bartle recapped the path taken by his classmates to arrive at commencement ceremonies.
“We definitely had something special here at Charles City High School,” he said. “We did not make this journey alone. We had our parents, teachers, and supporters.
“Wherever the journey takes you from this point out, whether it’s the armed forces, college, or the working world, never let it take you away from the place where it all started,” Bartle concluded.
Class valedictorian Shania King’s message reminded that graduation is not all about reflection, but about growth.
“Today isn’t about reminiscing on the past; it’s about looking forward to the future,” she said. “We all grew more independent and more mature as we get older.
“Each and every one of us pushed to get to this point,” King continued. “It’s not about how you look or how you fit in, but about what you learned and apply it towards a successful future.”
Charles City High School principal Marcus Petty Sr. summed up his comments by pointing to quotes that seniors had said in the yearbook.
“There is no harm in failure if you learned something from it,” he said. “When you have a goal, people say you can’t do it or you’re not experienced enough. Do me one favor; prove them wrong.”
Jessica Hill, a 2014 graduate of Charles City High School and recent graduate of Old Dominion University, provided a powerful message about how the outgoing graduates can impact future lives.
“To know I have had a big impact on you all when you were eighth graders and I was a senior means a lot to me,” she said, reflecting on her response when being asked to speak at the graduation. “But I don’t look at this a speech, but a conversation entitled ‘#whatisgoingtobeyourlegacy.’”
“As you know, people talk negatively about Charles City High School and our educational system when we know it’s not true,” Hill continued. “The question I want you all to ask is are you going to be a statistic or are you going to persevere? Are you going to be the employer or the employee? Are you going to make the rules or follow them?
“You need to make the decision today to win,” continued the new founder of Creating a Better Me LLC. “Once you say your dreams aloud, you are going to be responsible for them. You all were created to have big dreams.
“I need my queens to become CEOS and create non-profits and lead,” Hill added. “I need the kings here to lead and not follow the crowd.
“What you have been taught is what you know, but what you’ve been taught isn’t all of what to know,” Hill concluded.
Superintendent of schools David Gaston commented that this group is a representation of his current four-year journey in Charles City’s school system.
“I knew that this group would be successful and all I can say is ‘wow’,” said the superintendent. “I’ve seen this group mature into leaders. The future and potential of this class is mighty.
“Though small in number, this group racked up $400,000 in scholarship money,” Gaston added. “I have seen you all grow into young women and men and I hope you all will come back like Jessica [Hill] did and see just how successful you can be as a product of Charles City High School.”