GALLERY: Natchez High School, Early College graduates overcome challenges, embrace future

Published 12:22 am Saturday, June 1, 2024

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NATCHEZ — Forty-two Natchez Early College graduates and 145 Natchez High School graduates received their diplomas on Friday evening at the Natchez High School gymnasium.

The graduating class of 2024 has encountered many firsts together.

They spent their first day of high school in virtual lessons together as the COVID-19 pandemic was just beginning.

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Now they spent their last day together as the first class to ever graduate in the gymnasium of the new Natchez High School building because rain had made the football stadium too damp for the occasion.

Natchez Early College Salutatorian Angel Jackson and Natchez High School Salutatorian Alexa Jackson each had words of encouragement for their fellow graduates.

“Each one of us has faced our own set of challenges and obstacles, but it’s through these experiences that we have grown as stronger and more resilient individuals,” said Angel Jackson. “I want to leave you with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson. ‘What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.’ … I have no doubt that each one of us will go on to achieve great things.”

Alexa Jackson said her class the class of survivors — survivors of COVID, virtual lessons, inflation and a solar eclipse.

“I am in awe of how far we as a class have come,” said Alexa Jackson. “As a class, we have endured hardships — hardships that will inevitably make us strong enough to endure the unknown. … I want you to remember that life will be filled with ups and downs, good times and bad, highs and lows, but we have and will continue to persevere through it all.”

Valedictorians of Natchez Early College Tavia Morris and Natchez High School Alaina Hughes recalled the fond memories that they each have shared with classmates.

“I still remember my first day of high school — sitting in front of my computer in pajama pants not realizing that my camera was on,” Morris said. “Little did we know that this would be the beginning of a truly unforgettable journey. … We’ve enjoyed each other’s company and many of us will be friends for life. … What helped us get to this point will help us as we chart our own unique paths in life. … Tenacity, discipline, integrity, friendship, confidence, humility and faith. These are the qualities that will carry us through life. … We are capable of great things, and our adventure is just beginning.”

Hughes said her senior year was full of senioritis, but by the grace of God, she finished first.

“If I can be honest, I wasn’t scared of failing. I was scared of succeeding,” she said. “I knew that my childhood was coming to an end and I wasn’t ready to let go. … I say this to say to my fellow classmates, never give up on what you want. … Even if we have a bad few days or weeks, despite the hardship we have been through over the last four years, we have made it out. Jenifer Aniston once said, ‘There are no regrets in life. Just lessons.’ … When it’s time to move on to bigger and better things, let’s not lose sight of where we came from or the friendships we’ve made. We’re going to meet new friends and people, but Natchez High — the capital of Bulldog Nation — will always be our home.”