MANSFIELD - Though they were few in number - just 49 - members of the 100th Mansfield High School graduating class were big on emotion as they walked across the stage of Straughn Hall at Mansfield University Saturday, and into the rest of their lives.
Valedictorian Conner Harting told his classmates to "put yourself in the best position to succeed and find enjoyment in whatever you do."
"Appreciate everything. The world is truly a beautiful place. Never stop trying, never quit, no matter what you do, don't throw in the towel, and never compromise yourself," he said.
CHERYL R. CLARKE/Sun-Gazette
Members of Mansfield High School’s Class of 2012 move their tassels from left to right to signify they are graduates at the end of ceremonies at Mansfield University’s Straughn Hall Saturday.
Salutatorian Rachel Hohman, who moved to the area from a much bigger school system in third grade, said that she was "so glad it turned out this way."
"Now it is our chance to spread our wings and fly, but it is crucial we never forget the place from whence we came, or our teachers, friends and parents," she said.
Keynote speaker Casey Murphy Wood, of the class of 1998, an assistant director of admissions at the university, told the graduates that from now on they are responsible for the decisions they make and for themselves.
She also took them on a "little trip 14 years into the future," hoping give them the benefit of her own experience as a high school graduate 14 years ago, when she crossed the same stage to receive her own diploma.
"Most of you will be about 31 years old in 2026," she said. "Most likely your high school graduation ceremony will not be the topic of discussion.
"But today is a defining moment in your life. You are in the hot seat, the diamond in the rough."
She reminded them that the decisions they make will create the memories they will talk about 14 years from now.
She encouraged them as they received their "boarding passes" to begin the journey of life, that they always should be "your own biggest fan and a self motivator."
"Ask yourself, where do I want this journey to end? What type of person will you be referred to when you are no longer here on this earth?" she asked.
She asked them if they want to be remembered as "a good person, a person who worked hard, a tremendous mother or father, a loving brother or sister, someone who had a solid handshake and a genuine smile, someone who walked the talk, looked others in the eye, and wasn't too proud and didn't look down on others, but always told the truth - a person of class?"
"I desire to be remembered as a person who made a difference in the earth, a person of truth, character and betterment," she said.
"You have the opportunity to learn and do great things," she added. "I hope you always remember you have a boarding pass for a great life and happiness. Be a good person. And as for your dreams, you go get 'em," she said.
The graduates also heard from high school Principal William David, who told them that commencement means "a beginning."
"Some of you are off to school, others off to work, but you are all going somewhere," he said. "All you have to do is stick out your foot, have a little faith, and take that next step and make us Tiger proud," he said.
Class President Ameilia Edwards had to hold back tears several times during her address.
"During our journey, games were played, songs were sung, battles were fought and relationships were forged," she said.
"Dream big and always follow your hearts, and don't ever let anyone tell you you can't.
"We are the 100th class of blue and gold caps to walk across this stage, and we wish good luck to the classes to follow."