Friday night, thousands packed out the Tad Smith Coliseum at the University of Mississippi to officially recognize the 2018 graduating class of Oxford High School.

Superintendent Brian Harvey took the podium to address the Class of 2018.

“This is our most significant event of the school year,” the superintendent said, addressing the hundreds of graduates seated before him. “We have many other occasions that we gather to honor individuals throughout the year, but they all lead to this event. This night represents the district’s payoff for the many hours of work put in by the students and adults of Oxford. This work has been done to help each student acquire the skills needed to advance to the next grade and graduate well prepared for the future. It is certainly your payoff. This is the unofficial opening of the doors to all that america promises to each of us. Graduates, this program tonight is your moment, your victory and your great achievement.”

Harvey then went on to list the individual achievements of the Class of 2018 and the significant legacy they leave for the Oxford School District. The Class of 2018 had the highest class average ever for the district on the ACT at 22.6. More than 100 students within the Class of 2018 scored above a 30 or higher on the college qualifying exam.

“Your class has excelled in academics, in the arts and in athletics,” Harvey said. “There are 270, or 92 percent of you, plan on attending college next year. There are many more achievements that could be included here tonight for this outstanding class, but I know you are all eager to get your diplomas. There is a very special story behind each of these graduates. Each have had many successes and many setbacks, achieved significant milestones, made sacrifices and met special challenges on the path to this special event. We also know that all of you will have more victories and challenges in the future. That’s life, but you will overcome this. You are our future, and what you make of it will impact all of us.”

After Harvey sat down, Student Council President Margaret Pepper Adams took the podium to address her fellow graduates. She told them to go out in the world and be bold.

“Find what you love and never quit pursuing it,” Adams told her classmates. “Experiment, and allow yourself to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Be patient. There will be so many failures and disappointments ahead, but the road to success is not marked with perfection.”

Joanna Bu and Calendula Cheng offered the class meditation during the ceremony. Both students talked about how far the Class of 2018 has come and all the different places they’re going.

During Cheng’s speech, she encouraged her classmates to look around them and appreciate the privileges and opportunities they have been afforded. She told them that she knows the problems of the world are daunting, but that nothing great was ever accomplished by people who waiting for someone else to make a difference.

“Now that we are no longer kids being taken care of by our families, it’s time we step out of our comfort zone and start looking out for others,” Cheng said. “With the education and experiences we gained from our years at Oxford High School, we have acquired the tools do right in this world. It is our responsibility to use these tools to help our communities. No change in society, great or small, is brought about by idle citizens who are satisfied by the status quo.”

After some words of wisdom and encouragement from Senior Class President Sam Hartnet, OHS Principal Bradley Roberson stood at the podium and began calling the names of graduates of the Oxford High School Class of 2018. Twitter: @chaningthegreen

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