MOSS POINT -- Graduates were urged Friday to remember those who supported them and encouraged to establish a support system for the future.
Valedictorian Jesse Downing recalled his "paw-paw" Raymond Taylor. Taylor, he said, was born in 1932 and only went as far as the third grade before dropping out of school to help support his family. He later worked for Quaker Oats for 99 cents an hour.
"He valued an education," Downing said of his grandfather, who encouraged his children and grandchildren to do their best in school. "We all have someone at home who takes pride in our accomplishments. None of us got here alone."
Salutatorian Jalicia Hughes said she was nervous when she understood she would be speaking at graduation. "But I wouldn't be who I am if I didn't have something to say," she said.
Hughes said her journey to graduation wasn't easy -- with Hurricane Katrina, a house fire and an absentee father presenting obstacles along the way.
"Each problem has a solution," she said, adding her support system, including her mother and grandmother and teachers, and her faith in God gave her "the ability to make a rationale decision."
Hughes told her classmates to "surround yourself with positive people who will support you." She said giving up on problems was not an option and they must persevere.
Recalling sermons from her church the last few weeks, Hughes told her fellow graduates God has a purpose for everyone.
She also urged her classmates not to be afraid of failing. "You have to take a loss to be a boss," she said.
Downing told the class they were starting a new journey. "Let your walk across this field be the first step on that journey."