Hawkins delivered that address Thursday night, telling her classmates about how far they've come together.
She spoke about family, faith and living each day to the fullest.
"I want to wish them good luck in the future, and I want them to know if they work hard, they can reach their goals," she said prior to the ceremony. "...I think it is something everyone needs to know. You can go further in life."
Nettleton graduated 65 students during commencement exercises held on Jack Carlisle Field. During the ceremony, the 18 graduates who have received college scholarships received special recognition.
"This has been a very good class as far as pursuing their goals," said Principal Jerry Pitts, whose daughter Ashley was among the graduates. "They've been disciplined and will be prepared to go into society and be productive citizens."
It was a warm evening for the outdoor graduation. Gathered with classmates inside the school's band hall before the ceremony began, Dre Gillard had beads of sweat bubbling on his forehead as he recalled his time in Nettleton schools.
"When I first came to high school, I was like, 'Man, I can't wait to be a senior,'" he said. "Now, it's here, and I wish I could have the time back. Where did the time go?"
Salutatorian Kristynn Nichols used her remarks to remind her classmates to follow their dreams.
A touching moment came near the end of the ceremony, as Amber Williams walked to the stage with the aid of a cane to receive her diploma. Williams was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in January. Since then, the left side of her body has been numb, and she has not walked much.
As she made her trek on Thursday, her classmates all stood in support.
"It was awesome," she said afterward about the moment. "It was very special."
Many of the graduates spoke of the sadness of seeing classmates for the final time.
"It is a small town, and everyone knows everyone," said Kristen Bishop. "We've all grown together."