Published 11:40 pm Thursday, May 22, 2014

Pleasant Home’s Helena Weaver reacts to getting her diploma Thursday evening.

Pleasant Home’s Helena Weaver reacts to getting her diploma Thursday evening.

From John Wayne to John Hughes, graduates across Covington County showed their diversity during commencement speeches as five area high schools said goodbye to the Class of 2014.

Katherine White, salutatorian at Florala High School, took a page out of the classic teenage film, “The Breakfast Club” for her salutatorian speech Thursday night.

“I can say what I want, but you see us as you want to see us,” White said. Later in her speech, White — overcome with emotion — talked about the love each senior has for each other.

“If you ask us about our classmates, we can say that we love each other unconditionally,” she said. “We’ll never forget the friendships and experiences we went through together.”

Not far away in Opp, valedictorian Landon Hughes spoke of courage and his favorite cowboy.

“Now, we’re entering a time where we are going to have to decide what to do with our lives,” Hughes said. “We’re going to need firm, unshakable courage. I think John Wayne said it best when he said, ‘Courage is being scared to death, and saddling up anyway.’”

Florala valedictorian Caleb Zessin also talked about what graduates needed to face the coming changes in their lives.

“Times are changing for us,” Zessin said. “We should remember each other. Through it all, we’ve been there for each other.”

Zessin said while they may be classmates, they’re also family. Zessin also encouraged his classmates to remember family and teachers, and most importantly to remember God.
“This is the most important relationship we can have,” he said.

Opp salutatorian Matthew McCulloch spoke of hard work and its rewards.

“Hard work will always outdo talent,” he said. “Our class has a lot of talent, but its all the hard work that has gotten us here today.”

Katie Nail, valedictorian at Pleasant Home School, also spoke of graduation night and added one more pop culture reference to the list.

“We’ve been through a lot, done a lot,” Nail said. “It feels surreal that we have reached this moment.

At the end of her speech, Nail finished with a line from the popular Hunger Game novels and said, “And may the odds be ever in your favor.”

Pleasant Home salutatorian Ashtynn Thomasson said she wished she would’ve had more time at PHS, after starting at the school as a freshman.

“Looking back, I would have slowed down and enjoyed it more,” Thomasson said.

Thomasson said she is thankful that she went to a school that provided a “culture shock” early on.

“I honestly couldn’t see how I could be happy at a school with a cotton field next to it,” she quipped.

At Straughn High School, valedictorian Dalton Watson encouraged his classmates to become who they truly are.

“We are all here for a reason,” he said. “We are about to step out into the real world and become who we are.”

Red Level High School valedictorian Alex Selman said growing up in Red Level taught her the meaning of the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Selman said a strong foundation, memories and Tiger Pride will unite the Class of 2014.

For the graduating Tigers, it was also a bittersweet moment as they remembered their classmate Levi Neal, who died in 2011.

Salutatorian Paige Cook said she was positive Neal was looking down on the class in his Alabama T-shirt.