A close-knit group of 78 students, Daleville High School's Class of 2013, began a new chapter in their lives as they experienced their final moment as members of the student body and said goodbye to their teachers, friends and classmates during a commencement ceremony Friday night at Warhawk Stadium.

It was a bittersweet evening for the graduates who, while ready to embark upon the next chapter of their lives, were also sad about the many friends and memories they were leaving behind.

Valedictorian Colton McCullar encouraged the Class of 2013 to move on, to not be afraid and to see what opportunities lie ahead. 

"Life is moving on, and it is time for us to begin to write our next chapter," he said. "Don't get me wrong — high school is fun and all, but college will offer us great opportunities. We will get to experience a fresh start to be whatever we want to be."

McCullar told his classmates that even though times may get rough, to remember to never stop learning, never stop experiencing and enjoy everything life has to offer. 

"Once we no longer have the passion to learn (and) the intensity to find new ways of doing things, then we lose our imagination," he said. "If we lose our imagination then we lose ourselves because in actuality we are flat-lining and are no longer functioning members of society. We should never stop learning. I believe that we are meant to be life-long learners. We should allow the wind to take us away today because we are not promised tomorrow."

During her salutatorian address, Sarah Elia shared some of her favorite high school memories.

"We will always keep memories like the crazy quotes Jalen (Thompson) and I would use when situations got out of hand, 'Everybody go back to your seats', Christian Knight's unforgettable laughter, the kinship we all felt toward one another as we read our 'Last Lecture' in Mrs. Barnes' class, the never ending calculus problems in Mrs. Mellon's class, how Dolostone Chirt and Uganda became science bowl answers to everything, our 10-0 season in football and all the band trips that we took throughout the years," she said. "These memories will stay with us forever as we embark on our new journey in life."

Elia also thanked the educators at DHS, as well as her family and friends for their continued supported and for helping her along the way. 

"To my teachers and mentors — thank you,” she said. "Thank you for giving me that push and never allowing me to take my foot off of the gas even for a second. Thank you for your encouraging words in times of distress and for giving me the chance to prove that I, as an individual, am unique. To the family and friends that have supported me and helped me in high school journey — thank you for never losing faith in me and for being behind me every step of the way."

Finally, Elia shared a few words of wisdom with the students and told them confidence is what will gravitate them toward success.

“We are much more than we allow ourselves to be," she said. "All it takes is confidence. Confidence that we can make it. Confidence that no matter what is going to happen, we can and will prevail. We should never let others shape our life for us. Grab the bull by the horns and conquer your own vocation because being unique is what makes each of us who we are. Now it's our turn to step up to the plate and rise to the position that we have been working toward for 13 years."

Dressed in red cap and gowns, one by one, members of the Class of 2013 walked across the stage and received their diplomas. Officially Daleville High School alumni, the students turned their tassels from right to left, gathered in a circle on the field and with big smiles threw their caps high into the air.

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