By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Darryl Pleasant badly wanted to walk across the BancorpSouth Arena stage Friday night during Tupelo High School’s graduation.
But he woke up Friday morning not knowing whether he would have the opportunity.
Pleasant was among seven Tupelo High School graduates who learned earlier in the day they had passed an emergency state test given on Thursday morning at Mississippi State University. The passed test was their final requirement for graduation.
“It is an exciting feeling,” said Pleasant, who woke up at 4:30 on Thursday morning to study for his biology test. “I had to pass that test this time, and I wanted to do all I could do.”
Tupelo High School graduated 451 seniors on Friday, and it took 16 minutes for them to get to their seats and the reading of their names took 42 minutes. Last year THS graduated 398 students.
The class earned more than $5 million in scholarship money, including $1.5 million to the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University alone. It had 22 students who earned a percent 4.0 grade point average.
“It was a very large class, and that shows their dedication to finishing school, and I applaud them for that,” said THS Principal Jason Harris. “This group has passed newer, more rigorous assessments and that is a testament to their fortitude.”
Recognized during Friday’s ceremony were valedictorian Hannah Farmer, salutatorian Benjamin Matthews and Balfour Award winner Ashton Huey.
Huey, the student speaker, told his classmates to not let this moment be the pinnacle of their lives but to continue to move forward.
“Each of us will face new experiences, challenges and difficulties, but we will survive,” he said. “You have been prepared for the real world by some of the best educators and are ready to move forward.”
While waiting backstage for the ceremony to begin, Cortney McCown thought back to her first days of kindergarten at Rankin Elementary School.
“It was scary because I didn’t know anyone,” she said. “I’ve grown up with these people. It is nice we’ll all be together tonight.”
Pleasant said he looked forward to attending Itawamba Community College next year.
“I want to go far in life and be successful,” he said when asked why graduating from high school was so important to him. “I just want to go to college and see what happens.”
More photos and list of graduates in today’s NEMS Daily Journal.
Top of the Class
VALEDICTORIAN: Hannah Farmer
SALUTATORIAN: Benjamin Mark Matthews