Victory for BHS Class of '23

June 01, 2023
Members of the Burlington High School Class of 2023 wave to family and friends sitting in the stands Saturday, June 3, 2023, during their commencement ceremony at Bracewell Stadium.

Members of the Burlington High School Class of 2023 wave to family and friends sitting in the stands Saturday, June 3, 2023, during their commencement ceremony at Bracewell Stadium.

At about 7:30 p.m. on June 3, 2023, the Victory Bell rang out at Bracewell Stadium, each of it’s clangs symbolic of a struggle overcome, a goal met, a skill learned, the start of life’s next chapter ahead.

It rang for the 186 Burlington High School seniors seated in rows along the football field, anxious to walk across the stage and get their diplomas.

“Each of you are victorious for your personal accomplishments,” BHS Principal Monica Myers said. “Some of you have excelled on the ball field, the basketball court, the golf course, others in band, choir and on the stage for drama, speech and debate. You are victorious.

“Some have managed to attend school while caring for family members and working full- or part-time jobs. There are others who have overcome physical challenges or health issues while completing high school. You are victorious.”

Myers went on to list the winners of academic scholarships and awards, and noted the BHS Class of 2023’s shortened freshman year due to the pandemic.

“No matter what your obstacles or hurdles you experienced, you’re sitting in these chairs in front of your family and friends,” she said. “You are victorious.”

Though unbespoken, the bell also rang for the many teachers, staff, family members and friends who over the past 13 years have played some part in a student’s life to help them get to the commencement ceremony that day.

“We were lucky enough to have some great staff throughout our 13 years of schooling that helped shape our young minds and make us contributing members of society,” valedictorian Caroline Strawhacker said.

From Ryan Osborn, Strawhacker said, she and her peers learned the importance of voting and how to understand others with differing opinions. She credited Jessica King for teaching students how to write the perfect essay, and Derrick Murphy for teaching them how to be on time. Through activities like sports and dragon boats, she said, they learned to work as a team, while student council taught them how to organize and run events.

“Even though many of us might not need to know how to find the volume of a cylinder in the future, our teachers were able to leave a lasting impression on us and were part of some of our favorite high school memories,” Strawhacker said. “Our teachers encouraged us to pursue our goals we have for the future and were able to reassure us when we worried about what comes next.”

The past four years have gone by quickly, Strawhacker and salutatorian Katherine Taylor said.

Taylor broke down that time with numbers: 180 days of school each year times about six hours per day times four years makes 4,320 hours — hours that seem to have passed in the blink of an eye.

“I don’t think any of us were prepared for time to move as fast as it did. We have been told for years that high school goes by fast,”

Taylor said. “You arrive at the high school as a freshman, you blink, and suddenly you are walking across the stage shaking hands with Mrs. Myers and you’re done.”

Taylor recalled the uncertainty she felt after her eighth grade year. She didn’t know what her teachers or her classes would be like or who she would sit with at lunch. She didn’t know that COVID-19 would shorten her first year of high school or that it would drastically alter her second, but looking back, she realizes she has made some of the greatest friends, connected with amazing teachers, and that she and her peers have become “role models for younger students and pass on that BHS spirit that we have so closely cherished for the past four years of our lives.”

Much like that summer before their freshman year of high school, she said, the graduating seniors now face new unknowns.

“We have grown up and are heading off to new places that precludes us in ways we could never imagine, whether we are going to college, entering the workforce, enlisting in the military, or traveling the world, we are all at a point in our lives where we are unsure what’s coming next,” she said. “You can’t tell me what your life will be like, and I can’t tell you what my life has in store for me, but there’s something great in store for each of us.”

Samuel Morehead, class speaker and president of the BHS chapter of National Honor Society who was tasked with speaking about

leadership, encouraged his peers to use their gifts to lift up and those around them to make the world a better place.

“Yes, there are assigned leadership roles, such as president of a club or a team captain, but that’s not true leadership,” Morehead said. “Real, genuine leadership is being an inspiration to those around you. True leadership is using the gifts and circumstances you have been given to help everyone you can.”

Superintendent Robert Scott thanked the students and their families for choosing Burlington High School and extended his gratitude to teachers, staff and administrators, as well as public safety professionals and servicemen and women, before returning his address to the graduates.

“Today, students, you are graduating seniors, confident, prepared, excited, and you are ready for the next phase in your life,” Scott said. “There will be many opportunities for you in the workforce, military, college campuses, within your family, or maybe even as a teacher or principal in Burlington, we can hope. … Please remember you will always be a Grayhound.”