More than 200 students walked across the stage to receive their high school diplomas at Stanhope Elmore High School on Monday, May 17, at the Foshee-Henderson Stadium.

The event marked the culmination of more than 12 years spent progressing through grade school. But the graduating Class of 2021 is unlike any other – they had to navigate senior year in the midst of a global pandemic.

In addition to walking into the stadium as “Pomp and Circumstance” played, the evening included a welcome speech from SEHS Principal Ewell Fuller and a special song selection from teachers Emily Honey and Katie Stuart. Students who received special awards were recognized before the salutatorian and valedictorian took turns addressing their classmates.

As she began her speech, salutatorian Lacey Franklin thanked the school’s teachers, administrators and support staff for “working to bring back some normalcy to the school year.” She said the teachers kept her and the rest of her classmates encouraged during a difficult year and showed grace by being more lenient than they normally might have been in certain situations.

As she looked to the future, Franklin encouraged her classmates to be their authentic selves and not to let the world dim their light. In times when they feel lost or unsure of themselves, she urged them to cling to God who is capable of helping them realize their purpose.

“Don’t let the mistakes define you, let it mold you,” she said.

Valedictorian Rikki McAdams said some of the things she’ll miss the most about SEHS are the pep rallies, dress up days and the way the Class of 2021 “knew how to have a good time at a football game.”

The same way the SEHS football team has tackled Wetumpka, defeating them for the past three years straight, McAdams said she and her classmates tackled the hurdles thrown their way this school year.

“I am so very proud of you all and I love you all so much,” McAdams said.

Although graduation symbolizes the end of one journey, it symbolizes the start of another one filled with more learning and exploration, McAdams said. She encouraged her classmates to be courageous and take risks.

“What will you become?” she asked. “What will you accomplish? What will you do?”

A total of 229 seniors walk across the stage and later tossed their hats in celebration after Fuller instructed them to move their tassels from the right to left – officially declaring them high school graduates.