HOPE – The roar that went up from the crowd Friday night at Hempstead Hall was not for a pop music group, a movie or a sports figure; it was an unleashed pride in the academic achievement of the Hope High School Class of 2016.
Hempstead Hall was filled beyond capacity for the 2016 commencement exercises of Hope High School as diplomas of graduation were conferred upon the 167 candidates of the Class of 2016.
The crowd came to its feet as HHS Principal Bill Hoglund certified the candidates as having completed their HHS journey.
Graduating summa cum laude with grade point averages above 4.0 were Xavier McDonald and Nathan Phillips. McDonald will attend the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana in the fall with the intention to transfer to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville upon completion of an associate’s degree. Phillips will attend Arkansas Tech University in Russellville to study mechanical engineering.
Remaining honor graduates of the Class of 2016 included Lily Alba, and Caitlin Mullins, magna cum laude (3.75-3.99 GPA); and, Judith Artis, Ajah Criner, James Easterling, Ashley Rodden, Alexia Sharp, and Shelby Smith, cum laude (3.5 – 3.75 GPA).
The Class of 2016 has been awarded more than $400,000 in academic scholarships.
Retired HHS head Bobcat football coach Johnny Turner delivered the senior charge from the theme “Monday Morning,” and reminded the graduating class that on Monday morning their lives would be forever changed.
“After tonight, most of the responsibility for your life will fall on you,” Turner said. “In life after high school, your responsibilities will change; and, during that time, you have to make decisions and live with the consequences, good or bad.”
He said his own experience after high school taught him a sobering lesson.
“I thought I had conquered the world; but, there was so much that I did not know,” Turner explained.
He said that now was the time for the graduates to think ahead, if they had not already begun to do so.
“You will find out sooner rather than later that you don’t know it all,” Turner quipped. “There is more knowledge in this audience tonight than you have ever seen.”
He urged the graduates to pay attention to that knowledge, and to continue to learn, whether in formal education or career development; and, make that learning count.
“When I went to college, I didn’t have a purpose for going to college,” Turner said. “I enjoyed that first semester; but, when the grades came home, my life changed.”
He said two mentors, the late Earl Downs, who was the first HHS counselor, and former Bobcat football coach Willie Tate. Turner is an alumnus of HHS, graduating in 1971, after beginning his high school education at the former Yerger High School, and he went on to become an educator in the Hope Public Schools for 38 years. As a student in the Hope Public Schools, Turner participated in football, track and baseball.
“A high school education is good; that’s one of the goals you have accomplished,” Turner said. “But, don’t be afraid to take a chance to better yourself.”