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EA holds graduation exercises

“Locked inside of your hallowed walls are age-old memories.”

That song lyric from Escambia Academy’s alma mater resonated true Tuesday night as the Canoe School held commencement exercises at First Baptist Church in Bay Minette.

In the church’s entry way, pictures past and present of the Class of 2021 were displayed on screens outside of the sanctuary, highlighting the 25-member class.

Salutatorian Daughtry McGhee spoke about his memories of EA as a child.

I remember when I was a kid going to all the EA football games to watch my brothers as I dreamed of being a part of EA one day,” McGhee said. “It’s crazy how fast life can hit you. I remember being the little kid playing football beside the bleachers at the games to what seemed like overnight being the young man on the field playing in front of all of our fans.

“When I arrived at EA in the ninth grade, I was just a boy stepping into the halls of the unknown as I was joining students who had been here a lot longer than me,” he said. “It is safe to say my class accepted me with open arms and quickly made me one of them. They showed me what it was all about to be an EA Cougar.”

McGhee recalled how in his sophomore year, he had memories of creating a a cappella group called 6 under 6, which consisted of fellow classmates Caleb Davis, Sam Fields, Josh Spruill, Parker Robinson and Troy Fountain.

“The name itself originated because we were six people under 6 feet,” he said. “We have not yet gotten our first gig, but stay tuned. Memories of my junior year starting my coaching career off early with a 1-0 start after absolutely destroying the past seniors in the powderpuff game. Of course we coaches took all the credit due to our masterful game plan.”

McGhee said the senior year itself seemed to have a special memory every day.

“Memories from Tyler (Ray) and Chaston (Helton) acting like fools in class. Memories of Troy and Josh wrestling around every chance they got, or just the simple memories of us enjoying our times together. Whether it be the memories from the hilarious times we have had in school as classmates or the memories from the blood, sweat and tears that we have shed as teammates. All of them are cherished.”

Valedictorian Disha Patel said her time at EA was also one of many memories.

The past 12 years here have been memorable and amazing,” Patel said. “I would not be here right now without the help of the outstanding teachers and faculty. These teachers have prepared us to face the world, ensured us and given their all into our education.

“Escambia Academy has taught me what friendship means, introduced me to hardships and I am leaving with memories that I will remember forever,” she said. “I joined the EA family in 2009, and since that moment, I have met the most amazing people and had the utmost learning experiences. I am thankful because EA has introduced me to many great people and many lifelong friendships that have not only made my life fun and interesting, but worth living for every day.”

Patel added that she remembers the small things from her time at EA.

“Reflecting on my time at EA, I remember the excitement we would get when it was time to go to the playground for recess, or when a holiday came around, and we knew that we would not have anymore work for the rest of the day because we would be having a party,” she said. “Or the days we would have field trips, and the best part was no homework. Back then for lunch, we had home cooked meals, those small milk cartons and of course, the ice cream cups.”

Patel said elementary school was filled with endless amounts of laughs, movies, careless injuries, kickball games and the unforgettable AR points.

“While in middle school, watching the upperclassmen and especially the seniors have everything figured out was mind blowing, but what we did not realize was that the seniors were more clueless than we were,” she quipped. “Middle school was when we had a new teacher every year, students came and went, and we all developed our own interests, from band, cheer, dance, volleyball to football, basketball, baseball, softball and even track. We all realized what our true passions were, and we enjoyed every second of it, up until it all ends. “High school memories are unforgettable,” she said. “Winning the state championship freshman year, growing closer as a class sophomore year, dominating in powderpuff junior year and now here we are. Time flies when it is spent with an amazing class. Many things were taken away from us within this last year, but we still managed to make the best of it together.”

Poarch Creek Indians Chairwoman and CEO Stephanie Bryan delivered the commencement address, and encouraged the graduates thank those who have helped get them this far.

Look at your village,” Bryan said. “All of these people here have supported you and are proud of this moment. This day is a bitter sweet moment for the parents.

“Make sure you take the opportunity to thank them,” she said. “Thank your grandparents, family and friends; all of those who got you to where you are today. While you’re at it, thank the great teachers you’ve had along the way, too.”

Bryan said the students have gone through a lot, especially during the pandemic, adding they should celebrate this time.

You’ve felt real adversity and are stronger for it,” she said. “Today is a powerful example of that. I want to challege you to truly recognize and value the lessons learned through this difficult perid, and apply them to your life.”

Bryan encouraged the seniors to dream big.

“Write down your goals,” she said. “Check in with those goals. The path you take to reach them will be the most important.”

Bryan said this is the seniors’ moment.

“Enjoy it,” she said. “I feel very honored to have shared part of this day with you and your family. Remember, no matter where you go, or what path you choose, there will always be a road leading home and people here who love you.”

The EA class of 2021 includes: Leslie T. Ball, Jacob E. Black, Randal M. Bonds, Lillian C. Bonner, Watson M. Campbell, Davis, Jackson T. Dortch, Fields, Fountain, Angel M. Hall, William B. Harris Jr., Chaston S. Helton, William V. Howell, McGhee, Avery N. Mims, Rubye J. Nix, Makayla D. Parker, Patel, Ray, Thomas C. Riley Jr., Robinson, Spruill, LaKrystal M. Turner, Austin K. Washington and Gabrielle L. Williams.