Some went to preschool together; others spent their senior year as the new kid in school. But before embarking on more than 300 different paths, the Clayton High School class of 2016 did one last thing together – the seniors graduated.
Clayton High School held its graduation ceremony June 10 in Nixon-Fowler Stadium. Family and friends took shade under umbrellas, and many graduates wore sunglasses to shield against a relentless June sun as Clayton handed out 339 diplomas. Of those graduates, 141 will attend a four year school, 126 will go to community colleges and trade schools, 58 will join the workforce and 14 will enter the military. The college-bound students will take with them more than $2.7 million in scholarship money.
The graduates aren’t the only ones leaving Clayton High School. Next school year, principal Clint Eaves will take over as principal of Early College Academy on the grounds of Johnson Community College.
Each year, graduating Comets offer Eaves a small token as they pass through the line to receive their diploma, sometimes recovered marbles metaphorically lost, sometimes two pennies for their final two cents. This year, the graduates handed the departing principal individual Legos, both to build his future at a new school and as a nod to the school’s embattled “power block.” Eaves found other meaning in the Legos.
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“This box (of Legos) is like life,” Eaves said. “No one gave me any instructions on how to put it together. Remember going forward that life has no instructions. Do your best.”
The graduates themselves seemed confident they were ready for the real world, whether that means college, careers or the military. Valedictorian Katherine Riley, granddaughter of Rep. Leo Daughtry, closed her remarks by saying there’s only so much advice a graduate can take and that now it’s time to see what the class is made of.
“I’d say good luck, but we don’t need it,” said Riley, who, like her grandfather, will attend Wake Forest University. “We’re Comets, and it’s our time to shine.”
Riley did convey some advice, taken, she said, from the parents, teachers and coaches she met along the way. Essentially, while some things in high school and elsewhere throughout childhood might have been a breeze, don’t expect that now.
“You have to earn things,” Riley said. “You shouldn’t expect to just get what you want if you aren’t willing to put in the hard work.”
Clayton High School’s salutatorian, Hayley Ashworth Talton, told the class time was on its side. Graduation might feel like something final, or maybe a great jumping off point to whatever that next thing is. But she told the graduates to see their time as valuable and shape it into what they want, taking care to have fun along the way.
“One of our most important assets is time,” Talton said. “Many people view time as simply the hours that pass by on a clock. But it’s much more significant.”
Among the dignitaries attending the graduation were school board member and Clayton High School graduate Donna White and Brian Vetrano, the school system’s chief personnel officer.
Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdrewjackson