Seven county high schools host graduations

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 31, 2004

The future is now for hundreds of Lawrence County high school graduates. Seven schools hosted graduation ceremonies this weekend to usher tomorrow's leaders to the forefront.

Rock Hill

With cameras flashing, parents waving and proud teachers watching, the 2004 class of Rock Hill High School headed into their future Sunday.

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"Underneath these goofy hats are talents and dreams," said co-valedictorian Melanie Mays. "Our destinations are secrets even from ourselves."

Mays and fellow co-valedictorian Cassandra Chaffins both graduated with 4.0 grade point averages. In all, Rock Hill has an additional new 127 graduates after Sunday's ceremony.

Principal Steve Lambert congratulated the graduates, parents and faculty on a successful year, but he gave some advice to the new graduates.

"Sometimes you might need to remember Š success is often lost because defeat is accepted too early," Lambert said.

After the graduated had received their diplomas, Lambert recognized two special honorees. Frank McNeely and Danny Milton Wagner both attended Rock Hill High School before enlisting in the military decades ago.

Because their enlistment took them away from Rock Hill prematurely, the two men never received their diplomas.


From mud pies to caps and gowns, Dawson-Bryant graduates Krystal Rudman and Lezah Cook have come a long way together since kindergarten. The two long-time friends shared a milestone Sunday as they joined 97 of their peers in the 2004 graduation ceremony at the high school. The girls wore white and the boys wore black, but the emotions of the day were not as clearly defined.

Though both Krystal and Lezah plan to go into nursing, they will soon have to part ways. Lezah plans on going to Rio Grande University while Krystal will attend Ohio University Southern.

"It is kind of sad," Krystal said with a half-joking pout.

"We are leaving everybody because half the people are going away to college," Lezah said. "S,o it is kind of sad but we are glad to be here and show we have done it. Some people don't even make it."

Proud parent Melissa Harmon knew tears were in store as prepared to watch her daughter Ashley speak as a high honor graduate.

"We are very proud. She got a full scholarship to Shawnee so we are very thrilled. She is a good kid," Melissa said. "I will probably cry, I will for sure cry."

War veteran David Brown also received a special diploma.

Symmes Valley

With a graduating class of only 72, Symmes Valley High School students feel like a really big family.

That family got together for one last reunion Sunday before moving on with the rest of their lives. Some will go to college, some plan to enter the workforce, others are still looking for their path.

All agreed that the graduation ceremony was a bitter sweet day of celebration.

"I will miss all of the good times we had together as friends," Andrew Brown said. "I will miss a lot of the bad times, too. I will just miss the people and the experiences."

Co-valedictorian Kyle Gilmore agreed. The standout student and athlete was almost at a loss for words.

"I have mixed emotions. You are glad to graduate high school and have that accomplishment in your life but sad to see your friends go," he said. "I have got so many memories with these kids and we will probably lose touch with a lot of them."

Gilmore had a little advice for the seniors-to-be.

"Have fun. Make your senior year the best," he said. "Do it for the Lord. Enjoy the time you have here. It really does go fast."

Co-valedictorians were Christopher Elswick, Eric Kyle Freeman, Kyle Steven Gilmore and Heath Jarrod Wiseman.


Dressed in flowing black and white robes complete capped by the traditional mortar boards up top, 133 Ironton High School seniors strolled onto the school's gymnasium floor Sunday night.

Spinning in their minds, the knowledge that they would soon stroll off into their adult lives separately, but bonded together for life.

Excitement mixed with sadness and anticipation flirted with reflections as graduates prepared for the big night.

"It's sad," graduate Sarah Pyles said, as she nervously wrung her hands together. "I won't see these people again. Š But I'm very excited, too."

A sad anticipation of the next steps in their lives ran throughout the crowd.

Valedictorians Trisha Kay Kirk and Meghan Leigh O'Brien both fought back tears as they bade farewell to their classmates.

"Even though we've all been through our share of good and bad … it's these things that have tied us together," O'Brien said. "I have to thank my teachers. You've inspired me to be the best student and person I can be."

Sunday's ceremony was the 136th commencement for Ironton High School.

South Point

Bright smiles and serious looks were apparent on Sunday in the South Point gymnasium.

Valedictorian Brittani Perkin's speech touched on what an important part history plays in a person's life.

"The past is not so easily excusable. It should be used as a stepping stone to our future. Everything we do is permanent. …you can't change your past but you can change your future. Hard work and dedication pay off - Be your own best."

A slide show featuring the graduates' baby and childhood pictures was presented side-by-side with today’s faces.

At the end, photos of the late Jan Smith and the late Melvin Pauley were shown in remembrance with the words, "We will miss you."

The salutatorian was Miriah Catherine Gillispie.

More than 20 students received scholarships totaling $1.2 million. A new scholarship was created by Jan Smith’s family.

Approximately 120 students attended graduation with 29 who graduated with high honors.


The class of 2004 year may be closing a chapter to an era in their lives but the future beckons for 89 young adults who participated in the 81st annual commencement exercises Saturday evening.

Gymnasium bleachers were packed with school personnel, relatives and friends as they watched the traditional processional. Female graduates carried the school's flower-a Tiger Lilly-in their hands.

Teresa Pratt's eyes brimmed with tears. "I'm not sad, I'm happy for my daughter," said Kristyn New's mother. New has little trepidation about her future-she plans to attend the University of Kentucky and major in pharmacy.

Summa Cum Laude graduates Todd D. Angle, Megan Lynn Basham, Nicholas Evan Hall, Joy Amber Mayenchein, Jeremy Miller and Lisa Marie Perry gave inspirational speeches geared towards leadership qualities such as courage and committment.


"It has been an eventful class - so we have an eventful graduation," Mikaela Perry said of the extremely enthusiatic grads who celebrated the 55th annual commencement exercises in their own unique way.

Former 1992 graduate-Dr. Melanie L. Blevins-was the featured guest speaker.

Blevins graduated from Marshall and now practices dentistry in Proctorville.

The parents of the late Nathaniel Drew Runyon, a former student, were recognized.

Summa Cum Laude speaker Zach Taylor encouraged fellow graduates to give the world their best.

"You may get hurt…Give your best anyway."

Charles Elza Peters finally received his Rome Rural High School Diploma he would have received in 1946 had he not joined the military to fight in World War II.

Derrick Rowe's speech was a bit untraditional because he said, "My dilemma is that I do not have a speech. …I could sit here and filibuster this thing and we could be here for hours. …I want you all to have a nice day," the Summa Cum Laude graduate.

Derrick's mother said she was not surprised by her son's speech because "that's just him. He's a good kid and will be studying civil engineering."

Parent Debbie Watson said her son, Shawn, plans on working in the "real world" as

a house-building contractor for a couple of years before he enrolls at Collins Career Center to study electrician training.

Nineteen students graduated with honors, 14 with honors diplomas and 28 students had a college prep major.