BALDWIN — For 33 seniors at Baldwin High School, a long awaited moment arrived on Friday evening. Years of learning not only academic topics, but life-long lessons, led up to this day — graduation.

The high school gym was filled with proud parents, family members, friends, staff and community members cheering on the seniors beginning their new journey as graduates.

Faculty filed into the gym, and at the signal of the first note of Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance,” seniors proudly entered the gym with smiles and a sense of accomplishment on their faces as they took their seats.

After everyone stood for a stirring rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by the Baldwin High School Band, Principal Calvin Patillo offered introductions and gave recognition to family members of the graduating seniors.

Senior musicians played in the high school band one last time, performing the song, “To Honor, Thank, and Remember.”

During her address, salutatorian Dixie Herington encouraged her classmates to make decisions to benefit their future.

“I am so grateful to have shared these years with you. Our last week was spent making memories, talking about the past and planning the future. The future is based on decisions you will make. Follow your dreams and follow your heart,” she said, thanking her teachers, family and fire department family who helped her get to this point.

“As I look upon my fellow classmates, I cannot help but reminisce over the years,” said valedictorian Allene See. “I remember our fourth grade field trip to Caberfae. We learned to ski on the beginner’s hill. Most of us fell multiple times, but we got back on the hill and tried again and again until we were able to ski down the hill. We didn’t give up. You only really fail when you stop trying.

“I stand before you all today because I never stopped trying. Class of 2018, I wouldn’t have wanted to graduate with any other class. Thank you for the good times and the bad. Good luck to wherever life takes you and never give up.”

Following the salutatorian and valedictorian addresses, the Baldwin High School choir sang a heartfelt rendition of “See You Again.”

Senior Jasmine Simmons introduced the commencement speaker, Chad Williams, of the Michigan Education Association. Williams, an advocate of public education, was a Baldwin Class of 1991 graduate, and his parents were educators at Baldwin Community Schools.

“It wasn’t long ago and I think of myself when I was a kid on a dirt road in Bitely. It was not long ago when I think of myself as a graduate, full of life. Then I see myself when I became a man and challenges seemed to come faster and the cost of mistakes were greater,” he said. “As challenges come, be persistent. Don’t let challenges stop you.

“What matters is to be persistent and keep your eyes on the prize. Those who are most successful fail the most and those who are least successful fail to try. Appreciate who you are and where you are from. Be persistent and appreciative and the rest will take care of itself.”

After the commencement speech, the lights were dimmed and everyone viewed a slideshow set to music with photos of seniors when they were younger compared to recent photos.

When the lights were turned back on and the slideshow was over, seniors walked to the stage in the long-awaited moment to receive their diplomas.

As they took their seats again, Superintendent Stiles Simmons confirmed the graduates.

“I confirm these seniors successfully completed Michigan Department of Education requirements. They are officially graduates,” he said, as students were invited to turn their tassels, signifying the end of their high school career and the beginning of a new chapter in life.