419 receive diplomas, two longtime Prince George faculty retire

PRINCE GEORGE — Prince George High School’s Class of 2019 was greeted by a shining sun on an unseasonably temperate June Saturday, perhaps as a homage to the graduating class.

Student Government Association President April Drevitch welcomed the crowd of 419 graduates and hundreds, if not thousands, more friends and family members with a reflection on the seasons of life. “All our lives, we go through different seasons, and in the blink of an eye, without even realizing it, a season changes,” said Drevitch. “The thing that differentiates a season of life and a naturally-occurring season like spring or winter, is that once spring comes to an end, you have next year’s spring to look forward to and so on. A season of life only occurs once.

“But the crazy thing is, is that no one in this world will ever live the same season you did ... Take a moment every now and then to appreciate the season you are living in,” Drevitch said.

Following Drevitch’s welcome, Senior Class President Kyla Nase put her high school experience into perspective by focusing on the many athletic and academic accomplishes of the class, including the school’s state championship runs, and how various faculty and staff made her feel welcome and supported. She ended by leading the class in the singing of the school’s Alma Mater, which she humorously remarked that she would not be soloing.

2019 marks the last year government teacher Louise Thornton will teach at the school after 53 years of service. Superintendent Renee Williams presented a medal of honor to Thornton following much excitement and a reading of enthusiastic and congratulatory comments on social media.

“You have no idea how difficult this decision was to leave you, because I love each and every one of you. Even my seventh period class,” remarked an emotional Thornton. “And remember, always go out there and vote, and don’t get into credit card debt like I did.”

Forty-four students were awarded the distinction of being an honor graduate, with a minimum GPA of 4.0. All proudly took the stage, culminating with the announcement of Salutatorian Shelby Cox and Valedictorian Jonathan Kee-Hin Fung.

Prefacing her speech by addressing her fear of public speaking, Cox began with an anecdote about her daily drives to school, and even when a fellow classmate struck her car in the parking lot on her first drive.

“I didn’t realize until then just how easily life can come to a screeching halt. Ever since then, I’ve appreciated my daily drives to school much more, and I’ve learned that life, for me at least, has consisted of finding my way through backroads and highways,” said Cox. “Although we want to achieve our goals and speed into this next chapter, I want you all to slow down and appreciate everything you’ve been given up to this point.”

“I truly believe that the best of your todays should be the worst of your tomorrows; that we should live in the moment and cherish the memories, because in the end, that’s all we have,” said Fung. His speech focused on how precious memories are, and how we only get one try at life.

“As I raise my imaginary glass, here’s to the nights we can’t take back, friendships that last, and the memories we’ll make,” cheered Fung, as his classmates raised their “imaginary glasses” and water bottles in salute. Fung closed by remembering the three students at Prince George High School who lost their lives earlier this school year, including senior Trevor Aldridge, who was killed by a drunk driver in March, with a moment of silence. Trevor’s family received his diploma on his behalf.

This is also the last year of superintendence for Williams, who has 47 years of experience in the field with 39 at Prince George. Assistant Superintendent Dr. Lisa Pennycuff led the crowd in recognizing Williams earlier in the program, and following Principal Mike Nelson’s presentation of the graduates to the superintendent, Williams gave her words of advice, praising the financial contributions of the graduates’ parents.

“I promise I will do what my momma has told me for the last four years: she told me to stand up so they can see you, speak up so they can hear you, and shut up so they will like you,” exclaimed Williams. She gave a summarized account of advice from poet Ilan Shamir, whose work is heavily inspired by trees: Stand tall and be proud, think long-term and go out on a limb.

Reflecting on a trip to Uganda where she went gorilla tracking with her daughter, Williams knew that she was out of her comfort zone. “But when I think about it, it was a wonderful experience that I will never do again. Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb.”

Principal Nelson then led the presentation of the diplomas, with the graduates supporting each other with cheers and applause, ushering the participants of Prince George’s 66th commencement into the next phases of their lives.

By Leilia Magee 
Digital Editor, The Progress-Index
Leilia Magee can be reached at 804-722-5154 or lmagee@progress-index.com.