‘This is just the beginning’

BCS graduates 24 students during commencement ceremony

BALDWIN – Photos spanning nearly two decades flashed across a screen inside the Baldwin High School gym on Friday while those gathered reminisced about one chapter of the Class of 2014's lives, as they readied to embark on another.

Friday evening, students, faculty, staff, family members and the community gathered for the 2014 Baldwin Community Schools Commencement Ceremony to celebrate the district's 24 graduating seniors.

After going through much of the commencement program, but before the calling of the roll and confirmation of graduates, the crowd watched a slide show that comprised much of the graduates' lives – from childhood to their senior year. Photos recalled many emotions for the crowd as laughter, applause and cheers broke out with each passing photo. The show visually encompassed the night's purpose of celebrating and confirming the graduates' accomplishment of one milestone in life.

As the commencement ceremony began, faculty and the graduates entered the gym as the Baldwin Senior High School Band played "Integrity" and "Pomp and Circumstance" respectively. Following the national anthem, Baldwin Senior High School Principal Calvin Patillo took the podium.

Patillo began his introduction by acknowledging the Class of 2014 overcame challenges and obstacles to make it to graduation. Overcoming those hindrances also taught them important life lessons of hard work and perseverance, he added.

"However, don’t ever forget you did not get here alone," Patillo said.

He then took the time to thank BCS staff and faculty for helping the graduates reach the achievement, and also thanked the students' "biggest supporters," their parents.

Before finishing his welcoming and introductory statements, Patillo made sure the commencement ceremony's true spirit was not lost on the students.

"Cherish this moment, celebrate finishing high school, but remember this is not the end; this is just the beginning," he said.

The BSHS Band then performed "Cartoon Carnival" before co-valedictorians Brittney Grant and Tyler Shepler took the podium to address their fellow graduates. While both speeches were unique to the authors, they had a similar message. The valedictorians thanked their parents and BCS faculty and staff, referenced the Class of 2014 as a family and acknowledged trepidation about the next stages of their lives, but were assured that BCS had prepared them for it.

Following their speeches, the Baldwin Senior High School Choir performed "Omnia Sol" before Salutatorian Daekwon Fisher introduced the commencement address speaker, Ira Childress.

Childress, a graduate of BCS, has had a long career in athletics, which includes work as a broadcaster, at his alma mater of Ferris State University, at the NCAA National Offices and as an administrator for joint programs with the NFL.

After telling the audience it brought him "great joy" to finally be home, Childress told the crowd he always dreamed about making it to the NFL but thought that dream was over because he never played professionally. That was until one day he was sent to the NFL headquarters for a meeting. Before his meeting he called his mother and told her his dream came true and he had made it to the NFL, he said.

"To you graduates out there, understand this is going to be a path that is going to take you on many different journeys," Childress said.

His NFL story brought Childress to the theme of his speech: Protect your dream. He told the graduates many things will appear to take them off the path of their dreams and they would have to protect them.

He told them to protect their dreams with integrity and a great work ethic.

"When you go to college, you make sure you sit in the front row," Childress said. "Be the first person in class. You don’t have to be cool, it's OK. Be the first person in class."

He also told the graduates that while protecting your dream to expect adversity, but also greatness. When expecting greatness, Childress said, he often hears kids say they want to be the next LeBron James or Kobe Bryant, but that isn't enough.

"I start telling those kids now, 'That’s great. The athletic dream is great, but I want you to be the person signing LeBron James' check or signing Kobe Bryant's check,'" he said. "You’ve got to think bigger. You can be that person."

Following Childress' address, the audience was treated to the slide show. Then, finally, the moment came when 24 BCS seniors walked across the stage to become the most recent graduates of BCS.