In 2007, I put on my striped tie, flipped my highlighted hair to the side and pinned my graduation cap to my large head and walked into the Commons at Hancock High to hang out with friends before graduation.
Back then, before there were Facebook apps and iPhones were only around for the 1 percent, the only thing my clique and I were excited about was Shondreka Lee’s graduation party after the ceremony was over. School was out for the summer. No more having to get up at the crack of dawn and battle traffic at the red light next to Dolly’s to get to class on time.
Spoiler alert: I was late almost every single day. Shout out to my favorite secretary for letting me slide through a few (probably more than 20) times. No, I won’t name names.
When I left Hancock High, I never thought I’d go back.
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But since I graduated college, I’ve been back every single year. I volunteer to cover graduation for the Sun Herald at my alma mater. And it’s crazy how times have changed.
Aside from the fact that kids these days don’t go through an awkward stage anymore and it’s totally not fair, these kids are brilliant. Like, really brilliant.
The first year I covered graduation (2012), I met one senior who was going to music school in Atlanta. His dream was to write lyrics for Wiz Khalifa.
The next year, I met a girl who wore a white gown instead of everyone else’s blue gown. It represents the strength she had to overcome obstacles and graduate. I shared tears with her that day.
Then there was the year I spent a lot of time with Trevor Ladner, the salutatorian and drag queen who is now slaying the game at Harvard University. I also watched as graduates walked past a chair adorned in purple last year to honor their classmate Glenda Rockwell. Glenda died after a long battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. That year, valedictorian Grant Collum also left Mississippi soon after graduation for college 10,000 miles away in Australia.
When I was in school, our valedictorian and salutatorian quoted lyrics from 90s songs and talked about the great times we had together. Now, these kids are talking about how they’re going to save the world and telling thousands of people, most who live in rural areas, how “RuPaul’s Drag Race” helped a teenager in Mississippi find his place in the world.
These graduates are vocal, they’re educated, and they’re ready to make things happen.
It’s an honor to be able to go to Brett Favre Field every single year to cover graduation. I’ll be there again, looking for a good story, Friday night.