By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Shannon High School graduate Yasmin James had her mother on her mind Saturday night as she walked across the stage with her classmates at the BancorpSouth Arena.
After all, it was James’ mother, who died of cancer in November, who inspired her to persevere and graduate from high school.
“She wanted me to get my diploma,” James said. “This is for myself, but I know she is proud of me.”
Loss was on the minds of Shannon’s 125 graduates on Saturday night. The ceremony honored two fallen classmates; Halee Moody, who died in an accident as an eighth-grader, and Jamal Wells, who was killed in a house fire at the beginning of the school year.
Throughout the year, members of the senior class collected money for plaques honoring each of the two. Those plaques were presented to principal Robert Smith at the end of the graduation ceremony, and they will be placed in the school’s trophy case.
“This class has had some tragedies at school it has had to work its way through,” Smith said. “I have been impressed with this senior class and the class and character and faith they have had. Their biggest concern has been how they could honor the memory of their classmates. When people care more about others than they do about themselves, that makes me feel good about our future.”
It was also a night for graduates to rejoice about special accomplishments. During the ceremony, the school recognized 30 students who had received scholarships, three graduates who received special distinction and 25 who earned distinction. Several awards also were given.
Valedictorian Andrea James urged the first graduating class of the new decade to be trailblazers.
“Lets make all of our dreams come true, one step at a time,” she said. “Lets show the world what a Shannon High School graduate can do.”
Salutatorian Matt Peugh said his classmates had a “new future” in which to apply the things they had learned.
“I want them to get finished with college,” he said, when asked what he wanted his classmates to remember about his speech. “I want them to be smart with their decisions in the next four years.”
Graduates Elizabeth Bray and Sasha Carter said that over the past few days, they had been looking at photos they had taken when they were in kindergarten and first grade. Bray recently pulled out a diploma she received when she graduated from sixth grade.
“It makes me feel so proud of myself,” Bray said about graduating. “You get to start your own life. It means I have accomplished one goal in my life and I know I can accomplish more,” she said. “It means I didn’t fail or give up when I could have plenty of times.”