Patten to ACCS Class of 2024: ‘Embrace opportunities, but keep character in check’

Published 6:25 am Monday, May 27, 2024

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NATCHEZ — Adams County Christian School graduated 44 members of the Class of 2024 Friday evening, many of whom have been together as classmates since kindergarten.

The crowd was standing room only, overflowing the First Baptist Church sanctuary and balcony above. School officials printed 350 programs and all were passed out well before the graduation ceremony began.

After receiving their diplomas, classmates gathered on the steps of the church, standing before mothers and fathers, siblings, grandparents and multitudes of friends and tossed their caps high into the air and let out a cheer that was bittersweet, representing accomplishment, gratitude and a healthy fear of the unknown.

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Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten was tapped to give the commencement speech, and he asked for the indulgence of parents as cautioned the graduates about the world they were about to enter.

“I don’t want them to go out into the world thinking everything is all peaches and cream,” Patten said, speaking to parents in the audience.

For much of the speech, Patten turned and addressed the Class of 2024 directly.

“As we move forward, remember life is a journey, not a destination. Embrace the unknown. Take calculated risks and be open to new ideas while keeping your character in check,” he said.

Patten warned of the risk of jumping headlong into newfound freedoms.

“This world has a lot to offer you … I want you to be wise and take pause, knowing that while all these opportunities are available to you, the world is full of people waiting to take advantage of you as well, at a moment’s notice without hesitation.

“Who you were before they met you, it really won’t matter. Even though the world is full of opportunities, the world does not care if you were prom king or prom queen. It won’t care if you were the star athlete or the valedictorian. Just know there are people who will celebrate you as you rise, but they will also take pleasure in watching you fall, as well,” the sheriff said.

After those warnings, Patten reminded the graduates they were made for success.

“Carry with you the same intestinal fortitude you had when you won that championship in 2023. It is important for you to know who you are and whose you are at all times. You are a child of God,” Patten said, which was met with a hearty round of applause.

Salutatorian Ava Grace McDonald and Valedictorian Camren Eliza Strittman reminisced about school years gone by and thanked classmates, teachers and parents for their support and encouragement.

Of the 44 graduates, six graduated with AC Honors, the highest achievable, meaning they earned an A average in all credited classes since the th grade. They include Wyatt Joseph Hollowell, Ava Grace McDonald, John Alexander Peterman, Reagan Elizabeth Rabb, Camren Eliza Strittman and John Young Walker.

Eleven of the graduates earned Beta Club honors, meaning they achieved a minimum of a 3.5 GPA. They include Kaleb Tymon Bailey, Mackenzie Leigh Campbell, Joshua LaKeith Davis, Ashlynn Faith Hall, Maci Kathryn Jones, Lauren Kathryn Merriett, Kelli Madison O’Mara, Pai’shense Maria Shanese Rogers, Carrie Saige Russell, Blair Alyssa Rutland, Donavon Blane Ryan and Aidan Rayford Spillers.

Four students were National Honor Society graduates, earning a minimum of a 3.0 grade point average. They include Jordan Lamont Berry, Avery Rebecca Chisholm, Carrie Sage Russell and Anna Wright Stevens.

Other graduates include Richard Loughton Barrett, Nicholas Arthur Beach, Peyton Dallas Beach, Ka’Maria Jeanette Boykin, Charles LeeAaron Brooks, BreeAnna Lynn Butler, Jeremiah Efrem Clark, Reagan Chandler Collier, Damion Montrell Johnson, James Christian Joiner, Christian Jamia Jones, Sela Marie King, Zavier Cortez Lowe, Breana Chloe Owens, Cela Leaux Frances Ponder, Julia Morgan Rives, Andrew Christian Strawbridge, Ashleigh Paige Switzer, Caden Andrew Taylor, Hunter Joseph Townsend, Abbigail Delrae Wheeler, Tyson Beard Young.