HHS seniors earn diplomas
HUNTINGTON -- For many who graduated from Huntington High School on Saturday, it was a never a question whether or not they would earn their diplomas.
But for Alex Smith, it was a struggle.
The fifth-year senior and father of two wasn't sure if he was going to get to walk across the stage this year. He'd already failed his senior year once and had to work with a graduation coach this year to keep him on track.
"I immediately got 'senioritis,'" he said of his first senior year. "I started to slack by not going to school and that was my downfall.
"I started out doing the same thing (this year), but then I realized I need to hurry up and graduate because I have two kids to worry about. I actually have to do something, make something of myself. So I have to buckle down, get my life together and now here I am."
Smith was one of 331 seniors who graduated from Huntington High School on Saturday during ceremonies at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena.
Jessica Jordan, the school's graduation coach, helped him and about 30 other "at-risk" seniors stick with their studies on a week-to-week basis so they could walk across the stage on Saturday with diploma in-hand.
"It makes me extremely happy that they followed through," Jordan said.
"Every single student of mine that was potentially not going to graduate put in the effort. That's a huge accomplishment and I'm really proud of that."
The graduation ceremonies highlighted the accomplishments of the school's top graduates.
Senior class president Austin Preece, valedictorian Sam Oxley and salutatorian Stephen Holland all addressed their classmates during the ceremonies.
Oxley talked about sacrifices in his speech and how he chose to work toward accomplishments, something he plans to continue after graduation.
"There's a bright new future waiting for each and every one of us," Oxley said in his address, "if we have the good sense to seize it and capitalize on our opportunities."
Oxley, Preece and Holland were among 57 seniors who graduated with very high honors (3.85 GPA and above), 31 with high honors (3.65-3.849 GPA) and 22 with honors (3.45-3.64 GPA).
They are also among another 214 who plan to earn a 2- or 4-year degree.
Smith, on the other hand, said he is putting college on hold for now to work and raise his family, but he plans to attend one day.
For now, he is just happy to have graduated high school.
"It's an amazing feeling," he said.
"I'm so happy, my family's so happy. I knew I was going to get here one day, but I owe all this to Ms. Jordan, in all honesty.
"If it wasn't for her I'd probably still be at home and not graduating."
Follow reporter Kristi Murphy on Twitter, @Kristi_Murphy.
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