NIGHT OF CELEBRATION: Natchez graduates show up, show off while getting diplomas

Published 1:17 am Saturday, June 3, 2023

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NATCHEZ — Cheers, smiles and plenty of groovy dance moves dominated the Friday night graduation ceremonies of Natchez High School and Natchez Early College at Co-Lin.

Fifty-two students graduated from Natchez Early College, including several who received both their high school diploma and Associate’s Degree.

Another 158 students received diplomas from Natchez High School and an additional three diplomas were awarded posthumously to the family members of those students now deceased, including Marquez “Snug” Brown, Seth Hendricks and Markia Sullivan.

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“Sometimes, there are no words, no experiences, no clever quotes that can prepare one for a moment such as this,” said Principal Eric Jackson. “Sometimes, what we envision for ourselves and our loved ones is not the reality we are granted. … What should have been an evening where the Class of 2023 shared in their collective success becomes an evening where we must pause to honor three members of the Class of 2023 posthumously.

“Although absent in the physical form, we are compelled to note their spiritual presence with us tonight, and we are charged with finding solace in knowing that what has happened is but a turn of the tide, the ripples of which have left us with lasting memories of our beloved daughter, sons, classmates, friends, and now angels.”

Even with the twinge of sadness for those who didn’t quite make it to graduation day, Friday night’s commencement was clearly a night of celebration, with more than a few backflips, cartwheels and splits performed by the graduates to show it.

The Class of 2023 Natchez High School student with the highest grade-point average, Lyric Williams, shared a welcome message followed by music and commencement speeches. Natchez High’s Salutatorian is LaNyria O’neal and Valedictorian is Cedriona “CeCe” Douglass.

Williams, a transfer student, said she had learned much in her short time at NHS.

“At the beginning of the year, I was very anti-social and disconnected. However, Natchez High School helped me get out of my shell,” Williams said. “I was very apprehensive about meeting new people. With the help of my classmates, I learned to trust and build positive relationships.”

The Class of 2023 Salutatorian for Natchez Early College Ni-Lah Jones shared a message with her classmates about finding their purpose and not being afraid to express their individuality.

“Be true to yourself no matter what the situation is,” she said. “Know your worth … never let anyone take you for granted. There are over 7 billion people on this planet, but there is only one you.”

Valedictorian for Natchez Early College Ciera Demby’s parting words to her classmates were similar.

“Make every moment count,” she said. “Find your passion and pursue it. Don’t dwell on the past or worry about tomorrow. Love with all your heart, never give up and always be true to who you are.”

Douglass said her high school experience wasn’t all butterflies and rainbows like she imagined.

“This journey was nothing like Disney’s ‘High School Musical,’” she said. “In fact, the only similar thing about it is that we were indeed ‘All in this Together.’ … On a serious note, high school has taught me more than what I expected to learn. I learned the meaning of a true friend, experienced heartache, felt painful loss and even discovered the horror of being one minute short of 11:59. Moreover, I can say that every moment was bittersweet and will be cherished.”