Elba Graduates Start New Lives
Last week I attended the Elba High School graduation. Fifty students graduated, starting a new chapter of their lives and in the history of Elba. Rain moved the ceremony from the football stadium into the gym, but it didn’t stop the hundreds of friends and families from gathering to celebrate.
The graduates filed into the gold and black facility and paraded around the perimeter of the room, waving and smiling, some on the verge of tears. Their teachers, coaches, and administrators formed lines on either side as the class of 2015 walked to their seats.
The commencement exercises began with a prayer from honor graduate and drum major Paige Weeks. Salutatorian Reyanta’ Caldwell and Valedictorian Emilee Hudson addressed their class and each encouraged their peers to pursue their dreams and determine their own future.
The top ten honor graduates were recognized, and diplomas were awarded. The ceremony ended with Superintendent Chresal Threadgill congratulating the graduates and an enthusiastic rendition of the Alma Mater.
The ceremony lasted only 45 minutes, which surprised me. I graduated with a class of slightly fewer than 250, and our ceremony lasted almost two hours. While my own graduation was bigger and longer, the feelings of excitement and pride were the same in Elba. Parents and friends cheered, clapped, and snapped pictures of their graduates, and balloons and flowers peppered the stands.
Many of the EHS graduates will stay close to home, attending either Enterprise State Community College or Lurleen B. Wallace Community College in Opp. A few will go a bit farther, attending Troy University on a variety of scholarships. Some young men, fresh off a state 2A second place finish, have earned football scholarships to Murray State and Point University. Caitie Lusk, Interact Club Vice President and honor graduate, is going farthest from home, attending Ole Miss to study forensic chemistry.
Elba Church of Christ minister Philip Box says of the most recent graduates that “almost 100 percent never return to Elba” after they finish college. Box said he and others are seeking ideas and options to help keep young people in Elba.
He suggested that “a higher perceived value in local universities,” like Troy University and trade schools could help. He added that recruiting higher paying jobs, improving housing options and developing community activities would help make Elba more attractive for young people.
Box said he believes giving young people a reason to come back to Elba and grown their own roots should be a top priority.
Since many members of the Elba High Class of 2015 will not be too far from home, at least for the next two years, community members like Box can help engage them and keep the interest of young people in Elba. As the graduates go their separate ways, I hope the words of their Alma Mater will ring true: “Our strong bond can never be broken / Formed in Elba High, / Far surpassing wealth unspoken / Sealed by friendship’s tie.”