Family and friends filled the Kaplan Arena at the College of William and Mary last Thursday night to celebrate the graduation of 396 Gloucester High School students.
"Tonight is not an end, but a beginning," class valedictorian William Wei-Xi Wang Price said to his classmates at the commencement ceremony, as he promised them he was not going to deliver a speech designed to make them cry.
Price began to reflect on some the things he won’t miss about school, such as "teachers threatening to call our parents" or missing a school trip "because we forgot about that darn permission slip."
"The coming of the new brings the passing of the old," he said. "We will be separating from our friends, our classmates, our teammates … and for my fellow ROTC cadets, our comrades."
The graduates will be saying goodbye to the good times as well—the games, parties and dances—Price said, as he did an impromptu dance at the podium. He urged his fellow graduates to stay in touch with one another in the years to come.
Price once asked his mother what he could possibly do to repay her for all the sacrifices she made for him. "She said, ‘As long as you live a happy life. As long as you take care of yourself, I am happy,’" Price said. "To these extraordinary people (our parents) we owe our sincere gratitude … Let’s let them know that we are well and happy."
While the graduates are embarking on a new chapter in their lives, they will still have the love and support of their families. "Because they who have looked after us for so long will continue to be with us on our new journey. We shall not travel alone," Price said.
"As (NJROTC) Commander (Ronald) Harding once said to me, ‘May we have smooth seas, fair winds and clear direction until we reach safe harbor," the valedictorian concluded.
Last Thursday’s graduation ceremony started 15 minutes late because of a problem with one of the buses leaving from GHS, which led Layton H. Beverage, the school’s principal, to quip that some graduates had such mixed feelings about graduating that one must have punctured a tire to delay the ceremony.
"The young men and women sitting before us today represent the best the Gloucester High School has to offer," Beverage said, in a more serious vein. "They represent the hopes, dreams and aspirations of all of us. The turnout here tonight is a testament to the support these young adults have as they embark on the next phase of their journey of life."
To the parents and grandparents, Beverage said, "you’ve done a great job preparing these students for this special day. Your hard work and dedication has paid off." The principal reminded the graduates of their parents’ sacrifices. "I encourage you to continue to let your parents know how much you care about them … Always be willing to tell those who care for you how much you care for them. It’s not a sign of weakness, but of strength."
Beverage then took his own words to heart, singling out about a dozen of the graduates who have made an impression on his life, including Cody Adams ("Mr. Calloway thinks you are the best Ford mechanic in the state and so do I"), Jerry Washington ("your dedication to our football programs, during both the high times and low times, is a testament to your character and integrity"), Jennifer Kerns ("your love of life and your family represents the core values that make Gloucester such a special place") and Price ("I have enjoyed watching you grow as a leader and a young man").