Bruton graduates encouraged to embrace the turtle, ‘stick their neck out’

Staff writer

Bruton High School’s mascot might be a panther, but York County School Board Chairman James Richardson told the class of 2019 to embrace the courage of a turtle as they prepared to enter the next stage of their lives.

“In order for the turtle to move, it has to stick its neck out,” he said. “There are going to be times in your life where you’re going to have to stick your neck out.”

The 132 graduates took in his words among family, friends and teachers at the graduation ceremony at Kaplan Arena Friday. Following Richardson, York County Public Schools Superintendent Victor Shandor offered advice he said he had gleaned from his father, even though he pretended not to listen as a teenager.

He told graduates nothing worth having comes easy: Be their best when no one is watching and work toward a goal which ignites “a fire in their belly.”

“Enjoy the ride and laugh,” he said. “You’re going to make mistakes, doors are going to close and occasionally you’re going to fall short. Lessons can be learned in all of these things.”

Keely Pattisall and Catherine Mikhailova were introduced as salutatorian and valedictorian, respectively, and each addressed their peers.

A dancer with many leadership titles, Pattisall challenged her fellow graduates to look away from the academic core of the 13 years they have spent in school and instead to turn to the people in their lives for the real lessons.

“While the main focus of school is, of course, subject material, you can’t learn much of any importance without people,” she said. “… In 13 years, we’re much more likely to remember the relationships we built rather than the pages and pages of textbooks we’ve read.”

In her speech, Mikhailova took elements from all class subjects and underscored each subject’s usefulness in navigating the world as a young adult. She thanked friends and parents, noting that much is learned from those around you — and from yourself.

“We are now going to cross the horizon into the real world,” she said. “Whether you dread it or will fight it, this is our reality. We have learned so much from the past, from each other and from ourselves.”

Both Pattisall and Mikhailova will attend the University of Virginia in the fall. Students Chloe Hogan and Jonah Hamman were presented with the Bruton High Medallion, an award that is given to students who best exemplify Bruton.

Bruton High School Principal Arletha Dockery gave closing remarks. Dockery, who has spent more than 20 years in public education, started her first year as Bruton’s principal when the graduates were freshmen in 2015.

“You have the tools that you need to achieve success. Be sure to enjoy not only his moment, but also create many, many more moments that make us all very proud.”

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