HUNTINGTON -- A record number of seniors graduated Saturday afternoon from Cabell Midland High School, which opened in 1994.
The 420 students who received diplomas during the ceremony, held at Big Sandy Superstore Arena, included 17 athletes who signed letters of intent to play in college; collectively had the highest WESTEST 2 scores (as juniors); had a higher ACT composite score than the state and national average; and boasted a combined $1.9 million in scholarships and financial aid, according to Principal David Tackett.
Each student made it to Saturday through different paths, and they'll diverge again as they move on to the military, work or higher education. Student Body President Justin Barr said the senior class is made of different communities in eastern Cabell County, but called Cabell Midland High School their foundation.
"Knowing this occasion is most solemn and joyful, I will miss you and I will strive to make you proud," Barr said.
Honor student Aeesha Ranavaya, who also spoke during commencement, added that she and and her speech may be forgotten but she'll never forget her high school experience.
"The end goal, sometimes, is not as important as the road to get there," she said.
The road hasn't always been easy. Sarah Metz faced challenges every day with her blindness and brittle bone disease. But she said it has never slowed her down, except for the occasional Power Point presentation, she said.
"I knew I could do it," said Metz, who will attend Marshall University in the fall with hopes of a career in radio.
Her mother, Becky Metz, said it was an emotional day. But a lot of people helped along the way.
"A lot of people didn't think she would (graduate on time)," Becky Metz said. "It's been long and tough, but it seems like yesterday she started kindergarten."
Students also shared their fond memories of high school, whether it was simply spending time with friends at lunch or really appreciating the academic experience.
Charity Parsons, who took classes in child care, said they were able to visit elementary schools and even got to put together actual lesson plans. She plans to attend Marshall and hopes to become a teacher.
Clayton Bates also will attend Marshall and study business. But Saturday was a momentous occasion that his family documented with photos and video.
"He's my baby, and we're proud of him," said his mother, Betty Bates. "We want him to fulfill his dreams."
The class colors are turquoise and charcoal; class flower is the rose; class song is "Don't Blink" by Kenny Chesney; and the class motto is "Our lives are before us, our pasts are behind us, but our memories are forever with us."
Cabell Midland High School graduates largest class ever