WILLIAMSTOWN - From senior projects and the loss of open lunch to serious illnesses and school construction, Williamstown High School's Class of 2011 experienced a lot in their high school careers, senior Autumn Knight said in her valedictory address during Wednesday's graduation ceremony.
But throughout that time the students displayed dedication and a sense of community, Knight said. Now, thanks to their teachers, they are ready to face the future.
"We know how to study, persevere and face challenges," Knight told the 95 seniors assembled on the school's football field.
Williamstown's Class of 2011 celebrates.
There are still tasks they have to master, she added.
"Now all we have left to do is learn to cook, clean, wash dishes and do laundry," she joked.
That mixture of gravity and levity was present before, during and after the ceremony.
The students rose to their feet to applaud when Principal Pat Peters was introduced. Peters thanked the students and the community for supporting him and his family while he was out of school for more than five months following major surgery in late August.
Peters also praised the students, 53 of whom maintained a grade point average of 3.0 or higher throughout high school. He noted they earned nearly $1 million in scholarships.
"Thank you in advance for what you will do to make this world a better place," Peters said.
Williamstown Class of 2011
- Graduates: 95.
- Valedictorian: Autumn Marie Knight.
- Salutatorian: Corey Jacob Wade Kouns.
Prior to the ceremony, students said they had mixed feelings about reaching the milestone of graduation.
"I'm excited, ready to move on for life, get out of high school, ready to enjoy the real world," said Williamstown resident Cody Kelley, who added that he'll also miss football, wrestling and seeing his friends in the halls.
Kelley plans to study multi-craft technology at West Virginia University at Parkersburg, but this summer he'll go through boot camp in order to join the West Virginia Air National Guard.
"I just like helping people out," he said of his decision to serve.
Waverly, W.Va., resident Whitney Parker said 12 years of school went by faster than she expected.
Of her plans to attend Marshall University for a degree in medical imaging, Parker said, "I'm nervous, excited. It's a bunch of different emotions."
Williamstown resident Marisa Thomas, who planned to attend a post-graduation party at the school Wednesday, said the reality of the day had not sunk in for her yet.
"Maybe tonight, when we're actually in the school for the last time, it'll hit me," she said.