BILOXI -- The band played the traditional "Pomp and Circumstance" as seniors walked their way out of the Coast Coliseum on graduation day Saturday.
But "traditional" or "common" does little to describe West Harrison High School's graduates. Or the band, for that matter.
The marching band ranked second in the state in the 5A marching band championship, and has earned the high distinction of being invited to the 2017 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Academically, two West Harrison students who scored a 36 on the ACT, the highest score available. It's an achievement so uncommon that 99.96 percent of all students who take the test score below it. They were the only 2 perfect scores on the Coast, according to the state Department of Education.
The school chose the two students, Christian Mangati and Joseph Layton, to represent them as this year's valedictorian and salutatorian.
Mangati had a 4.27 grade-point average. Both students were named National Merit finalists. The NMSC also recognized senior Christopher Griffin as a finalist.
Mangati plans to study medicine at the University of South Alabama. Layton will go on to the University of Alabama to study electrical engineering.
Graduates were offered a total of $10.9 million in scholarships this year.
Athletically, the school's Bass Club won a state championship, and the girls basketball, softball and soccer teams advanced to state tournaments.
Mangati told the graduates, "I'm not going to use the old, tired clichés in my speech. But I want to encourage you to 'find your success.'
"Work hard to find it. Take ownership of it. And be proud of the success."
After thanking the parents and teachers who guided students and helped them graduate, Mangati said, "Let's be honest. This IS about us. We didn't work this hard to get here today not to take the credit."