Class of 2017

Vancleave graduates find inspiration and opportunity

Vancleave graduates have plenty to sing about

Seniors break into song as they prepare to graduate Wednesday from Vancleave High School.
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Seniors break into song as they prepare to graduate Wednesday from Vancleave High School.

The 170 graduates of Vancleave High School were together for the last time during Wednesday’s graduation at the Coast Coliseum.

Many are heading to college, rewarded for their hard work with a collective $5.2 million, Principal John Mundy said. Valedictorian Jared Scott will study chemical engineering at Ole Miss and salutatorian Emily Chappell will be a chemistry major at Mississippi State. They’ve been best friends since eighth grade and have consistently been the top two in the class. “It’s been fun,” she said. “We helped each other and inspired each other.”

Six students already have jobs at Ingalls Shipbuilding as members of the first Maritime Program offered at Vancleave and other Jackson County schools. With the program offering students the chance to have a job right out of high school, Alex Fuller told himself, “it would be dumb not to take it.”

The program was intense. Students had to be at the new apprentice building outside the shipyard in Pascagoula at 8 a.m. “Seated, ready to work,” he said. They had the chance to learn about all the craft areas and in the last two months got to chose their concentration. “Mine is electrical engineering,” he said. “I jumped on it as soon as I could.”

Fuller will study for two years at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, followed by two years at Mississippi State, all while working at Ingalls. For every A he makes in his classes, the company will reimburse him 100 percent of the tuition, or 75 percent for a B.

He also joined the National Guard, which will provide $99,000 in tuition. “If I make all A’s, all that goes into my pocket,” he said.

His father, Chris Fuller, works at the Technology Center in Vancleave. His mother, Andrea Fuller, is finishing her doctorate and working at a juvenile detention facility in Pascagoula. “He knows what a big deal this is,” his father said. “We’re very proud.”

J.J. Morgan, director of the Technology Center, said several of this year’s students have earned college credit and 12 Vancleave students are signed up for next year’s program at Ingalls, including two girls.

“There’s just a ton of opportunities for our students there,” he said.

Vancleave High School

Class size: 170

Valedictorian: Jared Scott, son of Melody and Brice Coker

Salutatorian: Emily Chappell, daughter of Deana Chappell

Principal: John Mundy

Quote: “Live right. Do right and the Lord will bless you.” — Valedictorian Jared Scott in honor of his grandmother, who gave that advice.