Cullman High School valedictorian Connor Johnson still remembers having to look up at the seniors when he began his freshman year at CHS.

“Well, actually, I still have to look up to see most of the seniors,” Johnson said, drawing laughs from his senior classmates during the school’s graduation ceremony held Friday night at Tom Drake Coliseum.

Johnson is the recipient of the University of Alabama Presidential Merit Scholarship, Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship, National Merit Corporation Scholarship, and Bryant-Jordan 5A Scholar-Athlete Scholarship. He was one of several speakers at the commencement ceremony.

CHS Principal Lane Hill said he will remember this year’s graduating class most for its members’ ambition. He recalled coming to the high school when this year’s seniors were sophomores, and how he was inspired by their defeat of a past senior class to win a spirit award.

“You were determined to be the best at everything you set out to do,” Hill said. “You are forever part of a tradition of excellence that is Cullman High School.”

The school’s salutatorian, Christopher Holland, is the recipient of the Williams College Merit Scholarship, Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship and the National Merit Corporation Scholarship. Holland said while students all wore the traditional caps and gowns, and decorations representing academic honors, it’s also important to recognize things like standing up for a belief.

“There are no awards for those crucial aspects of our lives,” he said.

This year’s CHS seniors received 89 scholarships and 11 athletic scholarships worth more than $4 million, Superintendent Jan Harris said. Harris congratulated the class on becoming a part of about 85 percent of Americans who have a high school diploma.

After giving a history of graduation ceremonies, diplomas and graduation attire, she offered what she called some heart-felt advice.

“What ever your path may be, I encourage you to take your parents with you,” She said. “Because your parents love you more than anyone else in the world. Your friends will come and go, but your parents will love you forever.”

Class President Megan Hunter thanked Cullman’s teachers and parents for their support during the school year. In this year’s senior class, she said she could see the students who had the potential to become the first female president, the next Bill Gates, or a future well-known Hollywood star.

“We left our mark on Cullman High, now it’s time for us to do the same on the world,” she said.

Also during the ceremony, Sharla Crauswell, the class vocalist, performed “Unfold,” written by Bailey Easterwood. Thomas Messersmith, the class instrumentalist, performed “Trumpet Voluntary and Hornpipe,” written by H. Purcell, accompanied by Rebecca Whited.

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