ECHS Class of 2024 dances, celebrates commencement exercises

Published 8:29 pm Thursday, May 16, 2024

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CORRECTION: This post was updated to include the correct title of the keynote speaker, and for one of his quotes.

After it was all said and done, the Escambia County High School Class of 2024 danced in celebration tonight during commencement exercises at Herbert Barnes Stadium in Atmore.

Ninety-three seniors received their high school diplomas, and turned their tassels in a ceremony that featured a rousing crowed filled with family and friends and big smiles.

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Salutatorian Ava Penner thanked Principal Layton Knight and Guidance Counselor Pamela Robinson, among others, along with her mother, Lynette for their support.

“I couldn’t have gotten this far without her (Lynette),” Penner said.

Penner went down memory lane, starting from middle school onward. She recalled what it was like as a middle schooler being introduced to new things, including choir and different classes.

Penner recalled the COVID year, and going virtual in December 2021.

Penner said 2024 is the year the class realized that they’re adults, and a new chapter is about to begin.

“Believe me, we are grateful for it,” she said about the lessons learned.

Penner encouraged her classmates, saying God will always have a plan for us, and don’t let anyone stop them from achieving their dreams.

Valedictorian Stephen Williams said he appreciated his mother, Shirley Williams, for her love and support.

Williams also thanked former and the late coach John Shears for believing in him.

Williams said the class grew together.

“We’ve laughed together, cried together and have grown together,” he said. “Let’s not forget these memories that we made. Our futures are bright.”

The keynote speaker was Col. Gerry Jackson, an Atmore native and 1988 graduate of ECHS.

Jackson said, from the jump, that this isn’t about him, it was about the 2024 graduates.

Jackson spoke about the time he graduated high school, and how he had mixed emotions about his own future.

He spoke about three things, having a foundation, obstacles and your future.

“Take care of all of your needs and some of your wants,” Jackson said. “My teachers taught me that. Never forget where you came from.”

Jackson said he’s visited 49 states and some eight countries, and he’s always been proud to say he’s from Atmore, Ala.

“Never forget where you came from,” he said. “When you have a foundation, obstacles and failures aren’t hard to face.

“Mistakes are nothing but experience,” he added.

Jackson noted that failures and obstacles helped him have a bright future.

“Where you go is where you make it,” he said. “Put God first in everything you do.”

Prior to the class breaking out in dance, one kneeled by a south end zone field goal post and prayed.