By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: June 20, 2019 | 1:45 p.m.
DINWIDDIE – When put in perspective, from their first day as freshmen to their final day in the classroom, Dinwiddie County High School students spend about a fifth of their life in high school. That represents four years, over 700 days, or well over 5,000 hours of studying, taking tests, and partaking in various athletic and academic extracurricular activities.
All that time built toward last Friday morning in Ettrick just over the Appomattox River in Chesterfield County where hundreds of Dinwiddie students, joined by friends whose made likely dates back to their first day as freshmen in 2015 and family in the nearby seats prepared to embark on the seconds long journey before them – the walk across the stage to attain their diploma and trek into the next stage of their lives.
Graduation is always a special time and that was the case inside Virginia State University’s multipurpose center in Ettrick, the host venue for Dinwiddie High School’s graduation exercises. One by one, members of the school’s Class of 2019 shared smiles and a few tears as they laid claim to their diploma, a physical representation of their hard work and their ticket to wherever their journey takes them next, be it to post-secondary institutions right in their own backyard, like Richard Bland College, or abroad across America, to trade schools to learn valuable skills critical to keeping this country going, to serving their country as a member of America’s armed forces.
As recent classes before them, Dinwiddie High School’s graduates enter a world that is more familiar to them than ever before thanks to the power of the internet and social media, which connects the world and shrinks the borders of this expansive planet, thus opening the doors to opportunity. That awareness has shaped the class as they embark on their personal journey.
With them through their final four years as students of Dinwiddie County Public Schools was Dr. Kari Weston, in the midst of her second year as superintendent after serving as assistant superintendent when many of the now-graduates were just starting out as high schoolers. In her remarks, she reflected on the growth each of the young men and women seated before here adorned in their caps and gowns had accomplished.
“We are all so proud of what you have already accomplished and, more importantly, are quite certain there are so many more amazing things that are just around the corner…because you are ready,” she said. “The past 13 years have prepared you for this very special moment and we are all grateful to have been a part of your journey…your story.”
A graduation ceremony carries so much symbolism – the throwing of the caps into the skies after the ceremony, the processional to receive diplomas with classmates, a fact not lost on Weston and something she imparted on the students as they listened attentively.
“Class of 2019, this day matters because today marks the beginning of the next chapter of your life’s story,” she said. “What you do, where you go, what you accomplish is now in your hands. So make wise choices, never stop learning and always surround yourself with people who make you a better version of yourself.”
Those thoughts were echoed by Dinwiddie Board of Supervisors Chairman William Chavis, who offered his heartfelt congratulations to this year’s graduates.
“It’s a new beginning,” the chairman said. “School is over now. You have to make a choice now on which direction you are going to go now, if it will be college, or is it a trade, or the military. Your future is bright, but it all depends on you and which direction you want to go.”
Chavis continued, “I think the school has done a good job on giving you directions, which is what their job is, to train you for a lifetime of achievements. It is all on you now.”
Class of 2019 valedictorian Vadaysha Jefferson reflected on that exact thought during her speech to her fellow graduates, posing the question of what happens now once the pomp and circumstance ends.
“No one has all the answers to these questions, but the one thing we can all do today is brace ourselves for the future,” Jefferson said. “Life is like a roller coaster. It has many twists and turns, and things don’t always go the way we expect them to. However, high school has helped prepare us for the world to come. Over the course of these last four years we’ve been building up potential, surging to the top of the hill in order to reach our destination. Graduation. And now that we’re here, and we’ve reached the top, all that’s left for us to do is propel ourselves into the unknown and enjoy the ride.”
This year’s graduates, just like those who came before them and will follow in their footsteps represent Dinwiddie and its culture of caring about their community – something that won’t wain now that they are transitioning into their next stage of life.
“Don’t forget what the people of Dinwiddie have instilled in you,” Jefferson said. “All of these people have shaped and molded you into the person you are today in one fashion or another. For example, all the time teachers have spent trying to teach you right from wrong has gotten you to this very moment. As I was saying, the people around you have taught you everything you know, and if you want to make it in the real world, I suggest you hold the lessons you’ve been taught close to your heart.”
In her remarks, Weston reminded the graduates that those people will always be there for them.
“Remember, should you ever need your Dinwiddie family, we are here to champion you,” Weston said during her remarks Friday. “You are and always will be a part of Navy Nation.”
As is common prior to and after graduation ceremonies, nuggets of wisdom are shared with the next generation from those who have come before them and, for Chavis, he told Dinwiddie’s newest graduating class to find their calling.
“I tried to do what other people wanted me to do and you have to go in your own direction and know what you want to do,” the board chairman said. “You can’t live someone else’s dream. That is what I had to find out and it took me a long time to find that out. I was trying to fulfill my parents’ dream instead of my dreams. Go out and find your direction because that is the only way you can be happy.”
Words of encouragement to Dinwiddie’s newest group of graduates came from as far away as the Nation’s Capital as Congressman Donald McEachin, who represents much of the county in Washington, DC congratulated the now-Generals alumni on their achievements.
“You have great opportunity and great responsibility,” McEachin said. “The world is changing at an incredible rate and I know you all will make such a difference. I hope we can be the change but I am confident you will protect the environment, use your wisdom to help those less fortunate and create a better world.”