Tuscola seniors celebrate graduation
There were mixed emotions at Tuscola High School's graduation Wednesday evening as students shared in tears and laughter at Western Carolina University's Ramsey Center.
The ceremony was full of difficult goodbyes as the students and staff bid farewell to Dale McDonald, principal for the past 10 years. But the night also brought new beginnings for the students who walked across the stage and a bright future for all the 2014 graduates.
Before the ceremony began however, nerves of seniors were apparent while preparing to line up back stage.
“I’m really nervous that I will trip, puke, or do both at the same time,” said Paul Leveritt, a senior heading to East Tennessee State University to play football. “Or even worse, what if they skip my name?”
Leveritt was not the only one with these concerns before graduation began. But then there were other students that didn’t have any butterflies, like salutatorian Megan Jameson, who will be attending Georgia Tech in the fall.
“I’m not nervous at all because we have really prepared for it,” Jameson said.
The ceremony began at 7 p.m. with everyone rising to their feet as the students entered. Cheers radiated everywhere from friends and families of the graduating class.
Jameson welcomed her fellow classmates and the excitement emanated from all around.
“After 13 years, we are done,” she said.
The celebration continued as valedictorian London Schumacher took the stage, reminiscing on their years as Tuscola High School students. Her encouraging words reminded the class of their final year in high school, including the difficulty they all faced with the contagious “senioritis.”
“This is just the beginning of a chapter in our novel,” she said.
Soon after, co-presidents Margot Ledford and Ben Sears took their turns introducing very special members of Tuscola’s faculty.
Ledord presented the 2014 Most Influential Teacher Award, this year a tie between Randy Pressely and Maggie Melville, both of whom are beloved by all the students they have taught.
Sears introduced this year’s speaker, Principal Dale McDonald.
“Mr. McDonald is also graduating with us,” Sears said. “It sure took you a long time.”
Laughter filled the Ramsey Center as McDonald approached the podium.
During his speech, McDonald spoke of a question that he has given much thought to this year: "What does Tuscola mean to you?" He shared memories that meant the most to him in the last 10 years as principal and spoke to not only the graduating class, but also to the alumni that were present.
Some of McDonald's favorite memories included Friday night football games with the Ladies and Fellas chanting “Big T," the Country Western shows and all of the talented students in the band and choral departments, his outstanding staff and the gorgeous views of the mountains from the school that only a Mountaineer gets to enjoy.
“These are all fond memories of Tuscola, and I just want to say thank you,” he said.
The presentation of diplomas was a true celebration for these students. With cartwheels and "selfies" with the principal, the atmosphere was blissful as the students made their last debut as high schoolers.
New adventures await the class of 2014, and students are thrilled to be moving on to the next chapter of their lives.
“I am ready for a new city, new people, and new experiences,” said graduate Maddy Pipitone, Knoxville-bound to the University of Tennessee.