Downpours don’t dampen Natchez High School graduation spirit

Published 11:58 pm Friday, May 27, 2016

NATCHEZ — An unexpected thunderstorm stole the show Friday night at Natchez High School’s 2016 graduation ceremony, but the weather couldn’t steal the joy of the occasion.

The bleachers at the high school’s football field were packed with supportive family and friends as 183 blue-robed graduates began taking their places when threatening clouds hanging overhead began to open up.

The heavy rain soaked the entire crowd and forced an emergency relocation to the Natchez Convention Center.

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One graduate’s mother, Clemetha Gines, was unfazed by the rain as she made her way down from the bleachers.

“This is not the first storm I have made it through with that child,” she said of her son, Michael Gines. “I am not going anywhere. The rain can’t steal my joy.”

Yolonda Morgan, mother of honor graduate Skylar Morgan, said she felt only excitement.

“Pure excitement and pride,” Morgan said, smiling.

Her daughter will attend Alcorn State University on a basketball scholarship, so Morgan said she doesn’t expect to have to miss her too much.

“She’ll probably be home more often than she’ll be at school,” she said, joking.

Her father, Thomas Morgan, replied, “I hope not!”

The weather contingency didn’t deter the devoted audience. By 9 p.m., an hour after the ceremony was scheduled to start, the faculty was taking its place in the packed convention center, damp but ready for the second attempt.

NHS Principal Tony Fields came to the podium to finally begin the commencement.

“Let me first apologize,” Fields said, joking. “But since you’re all here, we’ll have a graduation ceremony.”

Fields told the parents he knew their children’s graduation had been a long time coming.

“But I know,” he sang in the style of Sam Cooke, “The change has come.”

Josephine Jones said this was the 12th time she attended a commencement ceremony of Natchez High School, including the graduations of her six children and now her sixth grandchild, Jasper Minor.

“This is the first time it ever got washed out,” Jones said.

Her daughter and Jasper’s mother, Celia Minor, said the weather only made the celebration more memorable.

“This is a graduation they’ll never forget,” she said.