By Chris Kieffer
TUPELO – In August 2001, Josh Caron entered kindergarten at Joyner Elementary.
On Friday, he graduated from Tupelo High.
As Caron prepared to sing with the school’s varsity choir prior to Friday night’s ceremony at BancorpSouth Arena, he thought about those who have been with him since his first days in the school district.
“We grew up together,” he said. “We were small together, and now we are getting our diplomas together.”
Caron was among 441 students to graduate with Tupelo High School’s Class of 2014. The large class took 17 minutes to process to their seats, and the reading of their names lasted 30 minutes. Last year, the school graduated 451 students.
This year’s class, which graduated in the school’s 100th anniversary as a stand-alone high school, earned a school record $8,285,831 in scholarship money. It had 24 students who earned a perfect 4.0 grade-point average.
“It was a great, well-rounded class,” said THS Principal Jason Harris. “They set an all-time record for scholarships, and that says from top to bottom how phenomenal they are. I’m proud of them.”
Harris also noted the adversity the class overcame its freshman year, when a district decision to replace a popular principal led to student and community protests. Harris took the helm the following year.
“They started with one of the worst freshman years you can have and to finish out on top like they did says a lot,” he said.
Caron’s path to graduation took him through Joyner, Church Street, Carver, Tupelo Middle and Tupelo High schools. It was the same path followed by Maggie Thomas, who was this year’s student speaker.
“Tonight is the night we’ve all been waiting for to see how we’ve all grown together and how our paths have crossed and to see the impact we’ve had on each other’s lives,” she said. “I wouldn’t have wanted to go to school anywhere else because we are such a diverse group of people, and I’ve had so many opportunities to learn from everyone. It really prepares us for the real world.”
During her remarks, Thomas noted how much things had changed during the high school’s 100 years.
“Like the Tupelo High School Class of 1914, the members of the Class of 2014 can not begin to imagine all of the things in store for us in our lives,” she said.
Recognized during Friday’s ceremony were valedictorian Margaret Davis, salutatorian Ryan Murphy and Balfour Award winner Jimmy Stone.
Shortly before the ceremony began, Carl Williams spoke of the significance of graduating high school.
“It is something I’ve been wanting to do, and this is a once in a lifetime thing anyone should want to do,” he said.