HOWELL’S COVE -- Approximately 200 Talladega County Central High School students publicly pledged to their peers, family, teachers, staff and community leaders their dedication to graduate by playing host to a “Professional Academy Ceremonial Day.”

The event also included special testimony by Miss Black USA 1990 Clarissa Kenty.

“I wasn’t always the best student, but growing up my parents expected me to get my degree” Kenty said. “Growing up, I always heard from my parents that I was going to go to college, but I always thought to myself, ‘How in the world are we going to pay for it?’’’

Kenty stressed to TCCHS students to “never give up” by sharing some of her previous struggles.

“I didn’t grow up in a household with a lot of money, so I took it upon myself to help my parents with my college tuition,” she said. “At around 15 years old, I decided that I was going to college, but I wasn’t going to pay a dime for it.”

Soon after, the former Miss Black USA decided to enter the pageant scene in an effort to help fund her college education.

“I tried very hard at pageants and decided to enter the Miss Black USA Pageant in 1990,” Kenty said. “I didn’t really think I would win, so I decided to just have fun with it.”

Kenty explained that during her crowning moment, it was announced that a partial scholarship would be changed to a full scholarship from Miles College.

“I took that moment as a true blessing from God,” she said.

Kenty then took a more hands-on approach to explaining the significance of education to the students.

By using student volunteers, Kenty compared playing football to graduating from high school.

Kenty used a group of defensive linemen to depict the challenges and obstacles students may face during their high school experience.

“Once you have put your commitment in motion, there are already obstacles in place to try and stop you from reaching your goal,” Kenty said. “These guys are those obstacles.”

A group of offensive linemen represented the students’ parents, teachers and friends.

“These people are in your corner, they are here to push you to succeed,” Kenty said.

Kenty noted that the students’ peers, and even strangers, are cheering them on.

“These people are your cheerleaders, they are often on the sideline and you may not even know it, but they are wanting to see you do well. When God created you, he had success in mind. He wanted you to reach the end zone. It’s important to put your faith in him.”

Following Kenty's message, TCCHS students in the graduating classes of 2017-2022 vowed, by raising their right hands, to become “college and career ready.”

The Class of 2017 pledged to not only graduate but also “vowed to challenge themselves to overcome adversity and to not become another statistic.”

Seventh-graders in the Class of 2022 promised to “be the best class of TCCHS and to be a shining light for Talladega County.”

“I am so proud of these students today,” Principal Quentin Lee said. “Each class came together as a group to write a dedication in their own words.”

Talladega County Schools Superintendent Dr. Suzanne Lacey also addressed the students.

“There isn’t a school in the county or the state that displays such a high level of integrity,” Lacey said. “The behavior and leadership here is first class.”