“We finally made it,” Williams said.
“Hard work, it’ll get you here. We made it,” Massey echoed. “I’m glad.”
“I can’t wait,” Gay added, smiling.
Anniston High School’s Class of 2013 graduated Thursday night, as did its counterparts at Oxford and Saks High Schools. All three ceremonies were held at the schools’ respective football stadiums, and graduates accepted their diplomas in front of packed stands. It was graduation night for many other area schools as well.
In Anniston, seniors stood in small groups, taking pictures and adjusting mortarboards and tassels.
“I’m going to cry,” Chiquita Stewart said. “It’s emotional. School was fun…I’m going to miss JROTC the most.”
For Stewart’s friend Carlisha Motley, graduation evoked contradictory feelings.
“It’s going to be emotional,” she said, adding, “I’m excited. I’m ready.”
Ambriyana Taylor was excited to begin the coming year.
“I’m ready to see what the future holds at Troy University,” she said.
Taylor is not the only new alumni from Anniston High who is excited about the future. Marquez Colbert is eager to start his baseball career at Tuskegee University.
“We’re going to be the best class that’s ever come out of Anniston,” he said proudly.
Trevekio Roberts will also begin his college career playing sports as a member of the Huntington College football team.
“For myself, I made a name,” he said. “I’m going to college.”
School administrators scrambled to organize the graduates, but also took the time to appreciate the significance of the event.
“Graduation is always a great night,” said Becky Brown, Anniston High School’s librarian. “It’s fun to see them make it and excel.”
In Oxford, family and friends of the graduates squeezed into Lamar Field’s packed stands. Rhonda Hubbert Abbott, Oxford High Class of 1970, sat with OHS Class of 2009 graduate Savannah Cooper. The two came to see Abbott’s niece and Cooper’s sister, Betsy Cooper, walk across the field.
Terry and Lisa Jones also braved the heat to support their daughter, Krista, who is planning to pursue a degree in nursing after graduation.
“We’re very excited. This is a great class,” Jones said.
At 7 p.m., the OHS Class of 2013 marched across the field, one after the other wearing black robes and gold stoles. Most of the seniors stared straight ahead and fought smiles as they passed by the whoops and cheers of the audience.
An hour later, a single silver star-shaped balloon escaped the crowd and floated into the night sky as the graduates of Saks High School began to wend their way down from the school onto Jack Stewart Field.
While the graduates hid smiles, parents could not contain their excitement. Francis Robertson, who came to see her granddaughter, Tiffany Dover, graduate, was one of them.
“This is the last grandchild to graduate. We’ve had three graduate here and one in Oxford. She’s graduating with honors and in the top 10 of her class,” Robertson said.
Monica Lee, armed with flowers and balloons, was proud to see her stepdaughter, Jennette Russell, accept her diploma. Russell plans to begin cosmetology school after graduation.
“It’s beautiful and wonderful,” Lee said.
Saks seniors fidgeted in folding chairs on the field, crossing and uncrossing their legs and fanning themselves with paper programs. Senior class vice president Kendra Prater stepped up to the microphone to introduce class president Mitchell Goodwin.
“I’m introducing the president of the United…school,” she said, clapping her hands to her mouth.
“Not yet,” Goodwin said.
The audience roared just as loudly as if he were.