VDT Lowndes grad

Paul Leavy/THe Valdosta Daily Times The Lowndes High School graduates, faculty, family, and guests at Martin Stadium for graduation Saturday morning.

VALDOSTA – Martin Stadium was filled with family and friends Saturday as Lowndes High School held its 2007 commencement ceremony.

As more than 500 students gathered, not even heavy smoke conditions could stop them from crossing the graduation stage during the second outside graduation LHS has held in over 20 years.

While some older family members were only able to sit outside briefly due to the smoke, many awaited the ceremony’s end in their cars, not wanting to leave without sharing congratulations with their loved ones.

“I have so many nieces and nephews, grands and great-grands graduating today, so it is a beautiful ceremony,” said Anna Mary Day, 91, of Ebenezer, Fla.

Having voted to move the commencement ceremony from Valdosta State University’s Physical Education Complex to Martin Stadium last year, members of the Lowndes County Board of Education as well as the student body were happy to continue with the initial graduation plans.

“We have 530 graduates today and this is the one place where we could accommodate everyone and all their family members,” said Board Chairman Jason Wisenbaker. “Besides, this is a Viking tradition. This is where it’s been.”

Even through the gray skies of the morning, the excitement of the graduating class prevailed as valedictorian Joanna Huang reflected upon shared LHS memories.

“Each student here possesses a different perspective on our alma mater, but we all have shared the Viking experience: We’ve seen the completion of the J Wing, a fourth lunch period added, the wheels program, two state football championships, our band’s participation in prestigious parades, and LHS being named distinguished district of the year among large-sized school systems throughout the state,” said Huang. “And with each evolution, we too have made transformations and improvements that we can credit to this school. So be inspired to do something great and show the world what the class of 2007 has to offer.”

Top graduates and class officers of the 2007 class thanked several members of the LHS faculty for their support throughout the years and encouraged their friends to appreciate the journey ahead while learning from the obstacles that life may sometimes bring.

“In order for a turtle to move, it has to stick its neck out,” said one of the students. “Instead of hiding in your shell, go out and face challenges . . . be a turtle.”

As graduating senior Larry Turner prepares to face the next challenge of entering college, he is grateful to be remaining close to home and his family while attending Valdosta State University this fall.

“I’m going to VSU to major in education and I hope to teach high school after I get my degree,” he said while standing with his mother, Deidra Dixon. “Mr. White and Mrs. Raulerson inspired me to become a teacher, but my mom has helped me get here today. She helped me to keep going when I felt like I couldn’t. Seeing the struggles she’s been through always pushed me and made me keep going.”

Jarred Flores will also attend VSU in the fall, and carries with him the family connection which he says is found throughout the halls of LHS.

“What I’ve valued most here at Lowndes High is the unity our class had,” said Flores. “I can walk up to anyone out here today and say hi, and it will always be returned. From the students to the teachers, they’re all family here and it’s been a really amazing four years.”

In a final reflection on the graduating class, Principal Wes Taylor said “In our quest as a system to move from good to great, the class of 2007 has truly exemplified that philosophy. This class has shined and excelled on many fronts and I wish each of them continued success.”

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