‘You’re going to be just great’; GRC says goodbye to Class of 2023

Published 11:40 am Monday, May 29, 2023

Those wishing to attend the George Rogers Clark High School graduation ceremony in 2023 had to wait out the possibility of rain.

Fortunately, no such threat emerged on Friday night.

On a warm, sunny evening, 394 students representing the George Rogers Clark High School Class of 2023 walked across the stage set up in Cardinal Stadium to receive a diploma at their graduation ceremony.

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“This day is all about you, and you deserve it,” said outgoing George Rogers Clark High School Principal Jamie Keene. “I’ve had a front-row seat to watch your greatness [and] watch the example you’ve set…You’re going to be just great. You are ready for whatever the next step is. I can’t wait to see the impact that you [will] have in our community and in our world.”

The graduation ceremony started at approximately 7:00 p.m.

However, seats were already filled inside Cardinal Stadium more than an hour beforehand.

While students waited inside George Rogers Clark High School – some perhaps for the last time – attendees began showing up by parking at the school, being shuttled from Robert D. Campbell Junior High School, or other means.

School resource officers were present to guide traffic, while volunteers willingly used carts as requested to move attendees to the stadium in order to avoid inconveniently long walks.

The scoreboard at Cardinal Stadium uniquely presented the date of the ceremony, with the visitor score being marked “05”, the home score marked “26”, and the time stating “20:23.”

After the faculty entered Cardinal Stadium first, students followed.

While males were dressed in a red cape and gown, female students wore a white cap and gown.

Eventually, all 394 students were seated after entering with Edward Elgar’s classical piece, “Pomp and Circumstance,” playing in the background.

Following an opening prayer by senior Claire Ginter, a presentation of colors by the JROTC, and “The Star-Spangled Banner” as performed by the GRC Band and Orchestra, Principal Keene spoke.

He was accompanied on stage by Clark County Public Schools Superintendent Dustin Howard, Assistant Superintendent & Chief Academic Officer Kelly Fithen, Chief Operations Officer Brandon Watkins, and others.

Immediately following Principal Keene’s words, a moment of silence took place for senior Herman Jacob Smith.

Smith, who was critically injured in an automobile accident after being hit head-on in a wrong-way crash last Sunday, then addressed students from his hospital room via a recorded message telecast on the stadium’s video board.

“I’d like to say thank you to all my graduating class of 2023 at George Rogers Clark High School,” he said. “I’d like to say thank you to all my friends and all the support and love that you have sent me…it is very much appreciated.”

Smith, a member of the JROTC program, would later be the first graduate to obtain his diploma, with Lt. Colonel Thomas Krupp and math teacher Kait Greenwell receiving it in his name.

After Smith’s words, salutatorian Claire Reagan Martin spoke to her fellow graduates.

Noting that students might be headed in different directions – whether joining the workforce, the military, or going to college – Martin delivered words that others could use for the future.

“As you go on your new journey…I challenge you to ask yourself how you can be remembered,” Martin said.“Not by any title, achievement, or honor you can receive, but instead by who you can be to change the lives around you.”

Afterward, valedictorian Mason Keith Boley addressed students.

Talking about the importance of setting objectives and even quoting from the Book of Romans Chapter 12, Boley ended his speech by talking about the importance of perspective.

“Don’t let a moment turn into a memory before you’ve found its value,” he said.

Following Boley’s speech, the awarding of diplomas began.

After Smith, each student received their diploma in alphabetical order, beginning with Cameron Blake Abbott and ending with Madison Elaine Zeek.

Many were addressed as Cardinal Scholars, meaning they’d graduated with a cumulative weighted GPA of 3.75 or higher based on seven semesters.

Dozens of students also wore colored tassels around their necks, denoting memberships into certain organizations and more.

For example, members of the Academic Team wore black and white, and members of the Student Government wore red, black, and silver.

Shanda Crosby, a journalism teacher at GRC, took photos of each student as pockets of cheers erupted from different parts of the stadium when individuals were mentioned.

Once all passed by, Principal Jamie Keene addressed the Class of 2023 one last time.

He instructed them to move the tassels from their cap and gown from the left to the right side of their caps.

“Having met the requirements of the Kentucky Department of Education, Clark County Public Schools, and George Rogers Clark High School, it is an honor to declare you graduates,” he said.

With that last message, the post-ceremony celebration began, and 394 former students were officially recognized as alumni.