Graduates from Rome High School are preparing for one of the largest milestones in their young lives, and that is to walk across the stage and receive their high school diploma. Although their paths may differ on the other side of the stage, one thing is for sure. That is the mountains of congratulatory messages and treasure trove of advice they will hear form loved ones and educators invested in their futures.
Seniors who participated in the 2021 Baccalaureate Service hosted in the Rome High gymnasium heard from local pastor and RCS Board member, John Uldrick, and hopefully they will take his words with them as they discover the world and learn to become responsible adults.
The ceremony started with an invocation by Senior Class Vice President, Mallory Rodgers. Next, Dr. Eric Holland welcomed family members and members of the Class of 2021. Holland said that the last 13 years of their lives has all been for the 13 seconds it will take them to walk across the stage and graduate. He praised them all for their perseverance in such uncertain times and their dedication to their school. He also expressed the pride he has for all in Rome City Schools, especially the educators who worked so hard to overcome challenges and invest so much in the education of their students.
Senior members of the RHS Chorus then performed two pieces of music, the second “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong dedicated to their fallen classmate, Jose Cornejo-Cornejo.
After an inspirational reading from Senior Class Representative Emmajean Clay and an introduction of the speaker by Senior Class Treasurer, Allon Ellis, Uldrick took his place in front of the podium.
“Your class is marked like no other,” Uldrick said. “You have never lived in a world without Harry Potter, you are as old as the show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and Family Guy, and Spongebob Squarepants. When you were born, printing out Map Quest directions was still a thing. Most of you were only three years old when YouTube launched, and “Finding Nemo” was released. You were a year old when MySpace launched, two years old when Facebook was created and four when Twitter stared. And texting is just a bit older than the Class of 2021.”
Uldrick went on to detail some of the difficult things this class has been exposed to, including the recent pandemic. Using the moment that the Breaking Bad TV drama series star Walter White—played by Bryan Cranston—finally admitted his selfish reasons for succumbing to a life of crime, Uldrick painted their picture as the complete opposite. He said that he has witnessed the selfless acts of this class and the ones who will follow them, and he asked them all to continue the path of empathy and respect for others and their plight.
“You have survived and even thrived, I must say,” Uldrick said. “You have refused to be defined by these horrible events, no matter how tumultuous they have been. You said that you have a purpose, and you manned your posts. Soon you will receive your Rome High School diplomas and move on to the next stage of life. And even as confident as you may seem, you have every reason to feel a little twinge of apprehension. Defining yourselves in these unpredictable and difficult times is serious business. Even if you have a plan, questions remain.”
Uldrick then outlined some of those questions like success and what defines it, if the world will ever return to normal, and other challenges that likely lie ahead for the Class of 2021.
“These past four years were designed to teach you to about facing outward, about acting for the sake of a better community,” Uldrick explained. “Nelson Mandela was quoted as saying, ‘Courage is not the absence of fear, it is inspiring others to move beyond it.’ Every frontline worker, every first responder, every teacher and every student has experienced this. They have been drawn over a challenge by a larger purpose, by a person to left up or encourage.”
Uldrick closed with saying the last few months have taught us all about courage, adapting to change, and empathy. And to the Class of 2021, he complimented them for their example to everyone in our community and their willingness to push through adversity in pursuit of their goals.
Adan Escutia closed the ceremony with the Benediction and opened the future to a senior class more than equipped to handle whatever may come their way.
“I am extremely proud of this class because they never gave up,” said RCS Borad member Elaina Beeman, after the ceremony. “In spite of all they saw our previous 2020 Class go through, they were never discouraged. They hung in there.”
Louis Byars, Rome City Schools Superintendent agreed with Beeman. “I am very proud of this class. This is just a proud moment because of the things we have gone through. We were not able to see events like this for our 2020 Class, so this is just one more step in getting back to normal. Saturday is graduation and I am so glad to see this moment happen.”
Congratulations, Class of 2021!!!