BALDWYN • Baldwyn High School salutatorian Maddux Richey gave his 41 fellow graduating classmates three pieces of advice during the school’s commencement ceremony, Friday night.

Be eager to learn.

Don’t make the wrong choices.

Be grateful.

Richey said he’s tried to incorporate these principles into his own life, and he will try to continue to do so after high school.

"Think of how much we've grown when we first arrived at BHS," Richey said. "Think of all you've learned, all you've experienced, good and bad. Everything that has happened to you in the last four years — in the last 17, 18 and 19 years — has molded you into the person that now sits in front of me ready to move forward in life."

Richey said he loved every class, ballgame, practice and relationship at Baldwyn High School, even if some of them may have seemed less than great in the moment.

Valedictorian Alisia Billups told her classmates that in such a challenging year, she was extremely proud of them.

"By fate, we were brought together to learn and prosper and be the young adults our parents always imagined us to be," Billups said. "The abundance of joy we shared over the past 12 years will never fade and will forever have a special place in our hearts."

She asked her fellow graduates to think about what makes a person truly successful.

"Some people think your level of success is determined by how many awards you have won in your lifetime," Billups said. "Others think that success depends on how many people know your name or how much money you have managed to accumulate. However, I'm here to tell you when the awards, fame and money are all gone, that so-called success departs as well."

She urged her classmates to instead consider three virtues of true success to gain a new understanding of their purpose: humility, generosity and faith.

"Successful people have the perseverance to go through the most challenging situations with smiles on their faces because they have faith in God to bring them through," she said, bringing her speech full circle.

Billups implored her fellow graduates to, no matter where their roads carried them, always have faith.

"Before we leave here today, each one of us carrying different dreams, aspirations and hopes, I ask that you keep the faith, allow your faith to devour your fears," Billups said. "God has brought you too far to leave you now."

Just before diplomas were distributed and students moved the tassels on their caps from the right to the left, BHS Principal Rickey Weaver announced the Class of 2021 had earned a total of $351,000 in scholarships.

At the end of the ceremony, students strolled single file from their seats to the back of the gym, winding into a circle that grew closer and closer until they all stood together one last time. They threw their caps into the air to the roar of their friends and family cheering.

Weaver said that after having to split up last year's graduation ceremony to honor only around 10 seniors at a time, it was nice for this year's class to be together one last time.

"These students here have come a long way," Weaver said. "These kids have persevered through a lot, and to be able to finish it up on a high note is a very big deal."

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