For the second year in a row, skies were clear, the sun was out, and the Cleveland High School seniors — dressed in their navy blue gowns and decorated caps — were able to graduate out on the football field, without rain interfering.
The ceremony: Despite the high temperatures, smiles were all around, as Cleveland High School graduated it’s fourth class in school history Friday. It was the most decorated class in school history.
Of the 383 graduates, 183 of them graduated with honors. Together, the graduates accumulated more than $23 million in scholarships, which was a record. And 18 student-athletes received an athletic scholarship.
“The Class of 2016 has set the bar high for future classes,” said Cleveland High School principal Kendrick Byrd, who completed his first year as principal of the school.
He succeeded, Anne Meredith, who retired last June.
An exceptional group: Byrd came to Cleveland High School after having spent four years as principal of Cleveland Middle School.
Some of the students who graduated were his students while he was principal at Cleveland Middle.
“They are an exceptional group of students,” Byrd said in an interview. “They’ve worked hard throughout this year and their four years here, so I’m not surprised at their academic accomplishments. It’s a tribute to what they have done, and to their families, for the support their families have given them. They put in the time and work and when you put in the time and work, you get success.”
Memorable lines: Abinav Sai Katuru was the Class of 2016 valedictorian.
During his speech, Katuru quoted Madonna saying his classmates had “made it through the wilderness.” He said every accomplishment that his fellow students achieve will be added to the world accomplishments.
“Your individual successes benefit society as a whole because when you succeed you lighten the burden on your fellow man,” he said. “When you succeed you’re in a position to give rather than take.”
Salutatorian Harrison Mitchell Allen encouraged his fellow students to continue to pursue excellence. And in the words of his mama: “Do good stuff.”
“Personally I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of a more exemplary group of students,” Allen said. “We did it.”
“Thankfully our lives don’t end here. In fact, I’d argue that they’ve just begun.”
‘That’s all folks’: The designs on students mortarboards were plentiful and diverse. Some quoted Bible verses. Some told of what school they were going to – with one student’s saying he still wasn’t sure yet. And others resembled cartoons or artwork. One of the best designs was one that said “That’s all folks,” with the background from Looney Toons.
Last name called: Three hundred eight-three students walked the stage to receive their diplomas. By the time the final name was called, Al Younes Zayyad, the students began to clap. Zayyad put his hands in the air and pointed to the crowd. When he reached Byrd, they shook hands as if buddies, and posed for a picture, both pointing at the camera. The crowd erupted in cheers and laughter.