As Kaneitha Bigbee joined her class of nearly 70 in graduating from Russellville High School on Saturday, her grandmother, Nancy Bigbee, looked on with pride.
“We’re very proud of Kaneitha and all she’s achieved during her high school years,” she said in an RHS gym packed with family and friends of the graduates. “She’s going to Western and plans to be a nurse practitioner.”
Future plans were a focus of the pomp and circumstance at graduation, during which Russellville Independent Schools Board of Education Chairman James Milam gave a charge to work hard to the graduates.
“If you don’t earn it, you might as well throw it away,” he said. “If you get it free, you lose your freedom and forfeit your rights.”
After graduation, Superintendent Leon Smith said he felt Milam’s comments hit the nail on the head in regard to letting students know what they need to face the future with now.
“These students are prepared to have a great career and future,” he said. “They’re ready to go on and we wish them the best.”
While most of the graduates around Smith posed for photos, hugged teary-eyed parents and said goodbye to their classmates, class Valedictorian Brandon Jennett was taking in the surprise of being named top in his class.
“I didn’t know until today,” he said.
He hadn’t even planned a graduation speech, but with humor in his brief remarks thanked many for helping him do well in school.
“I really didn’t plan for this,” he said with a smile at the end of his valedictory address, “so thank you guys and have a nice life.”
Jennett, whose humble sincerity brought a touching and lighthearted air to the graduation, will attend Murray State University, where he plans to major in music business, in the fall.
Salutatorian Caleb Wills will attend the University of Kentucky, where he plans to major in biology.
Mollie Thompson, who was third in her class, will major in education at the University of Montana.
While moving on will bring excitement for the three and their fellow graduates, it won’t erase their memories of RHS.
“I made so many friends here,” Jennett said after posing for photos with Wills and Thompson, “and my home will always be here.”