Amongst the thousands who showed up to sit under the sun Saturday at Rebel Stadium were 451 anxious and excited seniors who were ready to cross the stage, pick up their diploma and enter the next chapter in their life as graduates of Effingham County High School.
It may have been one of the hottest days of the year so far, but that didn’t stop the Class of 2017 from keeping cool and celebrating their academic achievements as Rebels.
The ceremony began with the JROTC presenting the colors and the Effingham County High School Wind Ensemble performing the National Anthem.
Senior class president Jared Randall Nance welcomed the attendees to the ceremony before turning things over to the salutatorian, Natalie Marie Schaut.
“I am extremely honored to be here speaking to you all,” Schaut said. “I was not sure I would be the one giving you this speech. Thank you, ladies, gentlemen, parents, faculty, students, and everyone, for giving us the time to do this. Without all of you, we would not be where we are today.”
Schaut said that when she told she would have to sit down and write something, she was terrified and that she still was. Schaut showed no nervousness though as she spoke to her fellow classmates about what they had achieved.
She added that the one class she will take with her is her work-bases learning course, adding that before the class, she had no prior work experience. She felt that the job at the animal shelter where she worked has prepared her for what lies ahead.
Marina Van Sickle then followed with her valedictorian address.
“As valedictorian, I could attempt to tell you each lesson I’ve learned in my life, but because I’m still young I’m afraid I don’t have much,” Van Sickle said. “And contrary to popular belief, I have not been writing this speech since freshman year.”
Van Sickle continued and added a bit of advice to her classmates.
“The most that I can do is simply reflect on my experiences,” Van Sickle said. “One thing to keep it mind is that life is not like a cookbook — it doesn’t produce similar results for everybody by following a specific recipe.”
She later added that her competitiveness is something that she feels will help her in life.
“It was against my brother, Zack, that I grew to be competitive in everything I do,” Van Sickle said. “Mom and dad made many sacrifices over the years getting us from one activity to the next — we hardly had enough time to catch out breaths before we were on to the next activity. Without the support from my parents, I would not be who I am today. After all, my mom graduated Salutatorian from this high school so I had to do her one better.”
Van Sickle closed by congratulating her classmates.
“Thank you, Class of 2017, for the memories, friendships and the experiences,” Van Sickle said. “I wish you all the best.”
Following her speech, the senior class and ECHS band performed the alma mater, and the presentation of diplomas followed.
Principal Billy Hughes called out the final name of the night and presented the graduating class of 2017.
As Smash Mouth’s “All Star” (the class song for the 2017 graduates) blared from the speakers, the caps went flying and the hugging and handshakes began.
With that, another class of Rebels is out the door and onto the next journey in life. Where it takes them is anyone’s guess, but like Van Sickle said — don’t go looking for cookbooks.