Smyth County’s three high schools celebrated their graduation ceremonies and sent the members of the Class of 2017 into the world with well wishes last Thursday and Friday.

Chilhowie High School was the setting Friday evening for graduation ceremonies sending 105 members of the Class of 2017 into the adult world. Class president Abram Clear welcomed everyone, and honor graduates addressed their fellow grads with words of encouragement, memories and lasting friendships.

After the awarding of diplomas, Principal Mike Sturgill said it would be his last address to the students as he retires from his current position to take on a part-time position in the central office.

He presented each graduate with the gift of a stretch bracelet in school colors of orange and black featuring their graduation date and the words “Humble and Kind” as a reminder of the best way to be on their path to the future.

The rain held off Friday evening for a beautiful outdoor commencement ceremony at Marion Senior High School.

The Class of 2017, numbering 159, heard messages of thankfulness, encouragement and excitement for the future from senior speakers Lockie Bales, Cole Davidson, Andrew Gwinn, Charlie Hampton, Deanna Lovern and Ashley Woolridge. The graduates, school staff, school board members and audience were welcomed by Principal Mike Davidson and class president Taylor Lee Thompson.

After diplomas were awarded and tassels turned, the happy grads shot confetti into the night sky and took their first steps into the adult world.

Not only were 59 seniors saying farewell to high school Thursday night in Saltville, but Principal Stan Dunham is leaving as well, retiring after 40 years in education.

Northwood High School conducted commencement exercises with messages of congratulations and encouragement from the top 10 percent of the Class of 2017 and the awarding of diplomas. Speaking were valedictorians, Melodie Eileen Ashley, Haley Elizabeth Hartzog and Bethany Nicole Joannou, and salutatorians, Delaney Reagan Jones, Kara Jo Thompson and William Arthur Tuell.

The Northwood High Band and Chorus performed, and Stacy Poston offered praise for the retiring Stan Dunham as he delivered his last address to the senior class.

Dunham also offered praise and support for his successor, Jerad Ward, who previously taught Earth Science at the school and was the county Teacher of the Year for 2016-17. 

A special citizenship award was presented to Austin Tedder.

Photos by Linda Burchette, Smyth County News & Messenger

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