Tupelo’s class of ’11 marks its journey

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Tupelo High School graduate John Michael Angle took several minutes Friday night to reflect upon the quest that he and his fellow classmates had just completed.
Angle, who was chosen to give the student address at Friday’s graduation ceremony at the BancorpSouth Arena, told a crowd that included 402 other graduates that their high school years reminded him of his favorite story as a child.
“When I came here from Colorado three years ago, the Tupelo High School campus was a fitting Goliath to my David,” he said.
“Today, with 20-20 hindsight, we can all clearly see that our journey through high school was an amazing quest, the likes of which we have not seen elsewhere.”
Angle spoke of personal trials the students had faced, from the loss of family members to the end of relationships. He also spoke about community tragedies, such at the recent outbreak of deadly and destructive tornadoes.
“Every trial and tribulation has shown us we cannot topple every Goliath on our own, and the city and community have proven we don’t have to,” he said.
A large crowd filled the arena, taking up nearly all of the lower-level seats and many of the upper-level ones, to congratulate the large graduation class.
The Tupelo High School band played “Pomp and Circumstance” for about 15 minutes as the graduates processed two by two into the arena, and Tupelo High School Principal Lee Stratton needed about 37 minutes to read the names of all 403 graduates.
The ceremony also recognized valedictorian Nathan Oakes and salutatorian Rebecca Kellum, as well as Balfour Award winner Rachel Farmer. Seventeen graduates were noted for having achieved a perfect 4.0 grade-point average.
“They are an excellent group of young people that we’re so proud of,” Stratton said. “They are a great reflection of our staff and teachers and all of the good things that happen at Tupelo High School. They are tremendous leaders.”
Angle was not the lone graduate to contemplate the long journey to graduation.
“As soon as I got here this morning for the practice, I started thinking about all of the good times I’ve had here my whole life,” said graduate Dallas Oxner, whose memories included time with the Teenage Republicans and mock trial.
“It made me much more outgoing,” he said.
Davonte Carruthers thought back to his freshman year.
“It was hard to adjust to a new environment and new teachers,” he said.
But, Carruthers added, the lessons learned from his adjustment made a big impact upon him.
“I was part of the Tupelo basketball team, being a leader and teaching young guys to step up because hard work pays off,” he said. “Look at me, I’m graduating.”
Graduate Molly Johnson also discussed how she had benefited from a large, diverse, public school environment.
“You have to learn to be really accepting of others from different backgrounds and different family situations,” she said. “You really have to learn to communicate with people and be more accepting and understanding of people, and I think that has made us all more well-rounded.”

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@journalinc.com.