Saltillo High School celebrates an early-afternoon graduation

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Saturday morning was a particularly hectic one for Katy Penney and many of her fellow Saltillo High School graduates.
With the school’s commencement ceremony beginning at 1 p.m., its graduates had less time to get prepared.
“I felt like it took four hours to get ready because I wanted this to be perfect,” said Penney, one of the 152 Saltillo High School students who received diplomas at the BancorpSouth Arena. “It felt really rushed.”
The early graduation also had its advantages.
Graduates Evan Dodson and Tyler Boyd were looking forward to a full day of graduation parties and gifts.
“It was really hard to wake up, but it is good too, because we can go home and spend time with family and friends,” said salutatorian Clancy Smith, whose mother had spent several days cooking to prepare for the family’s graduation celebration.
“At first, I was sad because you always think of graduation as being at night, but now I’m glad that I have a chance to spend time with everyone.”
Saturday’s ceremony concluded with all of the school’s graduates recessing out of the arena, as “Pomp and Circumstance” played for a second time and the crowd enthusiastically cheered. They walked around the building and then emerged back onto the arena floor near the stage, where everyone joyously threw their hats into the air.
“No dream is too big to accomplish,” graduate Donovan Andrew Smith said.
Saltillo Principal Tim DeVaughn said this year’s class was special to him because it was the first that he saw through all four years of the graduates’ high-school careers.
“When they were ninth graders, they were so naive, and you can see that they’ve really grown up through the years,” he said.
The ceremony also recognized senior Mak Ford, who died of a sickness in late April.
“Mak was full of life and made everyone around him full of life as well,” DeVaughn said.
Valedictorian Maggie Parker spoke about the inevitable nature of change and how many transitions the students had experienced in their lives.
“We sit on the threshold of the most challenging change of our lives, that of graduation,” she said.
Parker reminisced about elementary school days with sour straws and country music on bus rides, the first day at Guntown Elementary when students gathered in the multipurpose building to learn which pod in which they would be placed, the football games and extracurricular events in high school.
She spoke of the moment when the students would be moving their tassels and becoming graduates.
“The question is, are we ready?” she said. “The answer is yes.”
Smith, the salutatorian, thanked friends, teachers and parents for the impact they have all had on the Class of 2011.
“If the friendships are true, as I know they are, don’t be saddened at this parting because it is certainly not forever,” she said.

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or

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