Rockmart High School officials were very clear about one thing Friday evening — its 2021 graduating class was going to have its commencement ceremony on the football field.
After waiting on a line of rain and storms to move out of the area, faculty and staff rushed to take care of some last-minute preparations and ultimately helped the seniors have a graduation they won’t soon forget.
In the end, 228 graduates were recognized on the field at The Rock following a delay of an hour and a half, and the family and friends who packed into the home stands to see it were clearly not deterred by the wet weather that preceded it.
It was a fitting conclusion to a school year that, as Rockmart valedictorian Laruen Allred referred to in her address, seemed to never be guaranteed as school and state officials made decisions on how to proceed with instruction in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Going into our senior year, many of us were uncertain with how this year would play out and how our classroom experience might come to an end. It felt like our chance of having the senior year we had all anticipated for years might not go as we had hoped,” Allred said.
“I think I speak for us all when I say the senior class of 2021 is proud to sit before you tonight thrilled to have gotten to this exciting moment of our lives.”
The evening ended with fireworks going off behind the visiting stands as graduates took part in the traditional cap toss. The nighttime display was a gift from the group of senior parents and made the reason for having the ceremony outside all the more meaningful.
Allred and salutatorian Andrew Lumpkin are two of Rockmart’s 108 honor graduates who received their diplomas on Friday night. Allred listed just some of the several accomplishments her class had been a part of, including several sports championships, fine arts honors and industry and business honors.
“Thank you to the community that has supported us for so many years now,” Allred said.
Lumpkin spoke about the life lessons he has learned from some famous movie quotes and how they can help his fellow classmates as they go forward.
“Just keep swimming,” from “Finding Nemo,” and “Life is like a box of chocolates,” from “Forrest Gump,” Lumpkin talked about each one and what it has taught him, including Yoda’s line “Do or do not. There is no try,” from The Empire Strikes Back.
“If you want to do something, give it your all or don’t even bother. Half-hearted attempts will never get you anywhere,” Lumpkin said.
New Rockmart High School Principal Dr. Bo Adams spoke shortly after having only been in the position since May 3 following the retirement of Robyn Teems.
“Traditionally, the principal gives a speech at graduation. Tonight like my time here at Rockmart High School so far, my speech will be brief. In fact, I would simply like to say congratulations to the class of 2021 and wish each of you much success in your next place in life,” Adams said.