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A tribute to the graduates

During my career in journalism, one of the nicest aspects of my job has been the opportunity to interview tremendously bright and gifted high school students.

I recently had this opportunity again during the process of interviewing valedictorians and salutatorians for our special graduation section included in Thursday's paper.

I was once again amazed at the maturity displayed by these standout students during our conversations and especially impressed by the list of honors accomplished by these scholars and the myriad of activities they have been involved in.

I was able to interview the vals and sals at Pleasant Home School and Red Level School. In just the brief time I was able to spend with Nicole Parker and David Sanders from Pleasant Home and with Michael Rodgers, Lane Harrelson and Elizabeth Odom of Red Level, I was able to gain a definite sense of the commitment levels of these individuals.

A sense of commitment that, regrettably, I was not able to comprehend during my high school years.

I am always awed by those young people who have the work ethic necessary to juggle numerous activities and responsibilities and yet still produce phenomenal academic numbers, because, once again, I could never seem to find it.

My high school years were among the most tumultuous in my life due to the simple reason that I never came close to applying myself to the fullest.

I was basically content to just get by.

I must emphasize that this is no reflection on my parents as they did whatever they could to motivate me, whether it be pleading, punishing or preaching the virtues of doing well in school.

At some point, however, parents can only do so much for their children, and the rest depends on that particular student's own inner drive to strive for excellence.

I did not possess this, at least until after I began my college days, but just by talking with this group of students it is easily evident these students have that drive.

During my conversation with Parker, she discussed her intense competitive nature to do well academically, a competitiveness that began as early as her kindergarten days. At

Red Level, Rodgers, Harrelson and Odom discussed the friendly but intense competition they had with each other in trying to achieve the status of top student.

These are good, positive stories, stories that should inspire students at their schools and schools throughout Covington County to excel and do their best.

Although I have been able to achieve a good deal of success, which includes a college degree, there are many times I wish I could have my high school years to do over again, so I could do them right.

For all of the high school graduates in Covington County, I sincerely applaud your efforts and wish you nothing but the brightest days ahead in your futures.