William Byrd High School Class of 2017 celebrates graduation

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Valedictorians who were speakers at the Class of 2017 graduation ceremony included (from left): front, Top Terrier Stephen Olsen, SCA President Leah Andersen, Meagan Webb, Senior Class President Abigail Griffin; back, Theodore Drewes and Westin Recktenwald.
William Byrd High School Valedictorian Kayla Altice celebrated her graduation with the Class of 2017 on June 9.

William Byrd High School held its 94th graduation on June 9.

The Class of 2017 had 260 graduates with 41 valedictorians (4.0+ GPA) and 161 honor hraduates (GPA 3.0+). One hundred students received advanced diplomas. Over 100 received the Governor’s Seal for having a “B or better” average. They have collectively earned $3,881,264 in scholarships to date.

The ceremony was held at the Salem Civic Center, as is the tradition.

Valedictorian Stephen Olsen opened the commencement ceremonies. He was chosen by the Senior Class and the faculty as William Byrd’s first “Top Terrier” last fall when school began. He reminded his fellow students that they are all “Top Terriers” and should conduct themselves throughout life with “integrity, loyalty, and courage of character,” serving as models for others. He defined integrity as conscious decisions individuals make, and spoke of his faith.

Valedictorian and SCA President Leah Andersen honored students who have made the choice to serve in the military after graduation and then led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Principal Tammy Newcomb, in her first year as principal, said the Class of 2017 was “the best class I could have asked for to begin my journey.” They have exceeded her expectations; each one is a “symbol of success.” She mentioned that she has worked with some of them since they were in elementary school and she was the assistant principal at W.E. Cundiff Elementary.

She went on to commend several individual students: Teddy Drewes, who has earned a full scholarship to the Air Force Academy, valued at $450,000, and Chase Caldwell, who has earned the Air Force ROTC Scholarship to Virginia Tech.

She applauded All-State athletes Devon Kasey (football) and Adam Catron (wrestling) with Catron also receiving the regional B’nai B’rith Outstanding Student Athlete Achievement Award.

She recognized three students for their achievements in the National Merit Scholarship Program: Stephen Olsen, Meagan Webb, and Anna Haught. Mitchell Lyle was recognized for being the first Roanoke County student to win top honors at the International DECA Conference. Lauren Cook was commended for graduating from Virginia Western Community College and William Byrd High School simultaneously through dual enrollment and enormous effort and perseverance.

Newcomb thanked all the parents and faculty members who supported their students and made their successes and graduation possible.

She said goodbye to teachers Billy Meador and Pat Smith, who are retiring after 44 years and 33 years of service, respectively, and to Assistant Principal Nancy Chewning, who will take a new position as assistant principal at Northside Middle School, describing her as someone who has always “been a champion for students.”

Newcomb quoted President Franklin Roosevelt saying, “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future,” and reminded students to “be positive, kind, and hardworking.”

Senior Class President Abigail Griffin reminded her fellow graduates to spread kindness as well, value diversity, tolerate differences, and applaud the misfits, while recognizing that everyone is unique.

Valedictorian Jeremy Slater, who has spent his senior year studying abroad in Macedonia, addressed the Class of 2017 from there, and shared what he has learned from the experience of living in another culture. He advised the Class of 2017 not to take the small moments of life for granted, to not be afraid of change but afraid of monotony, to prioritize health and happiness, and to “strive for a better you.”

Valedictorian Teddy Drewes also had a quote, this one from Albert Einstein, “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity.” He went on to say that the “stupidest mistake is not trying. You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” He read a quote he heard as a youngster, which inspired him, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”’

Valedictorian Meagan Webb described the chaos that has overtaken the world “just as we are preparing to enter it.” However, she said the Class of 2017 has been well-prepared for the challenges they will face because they have learned to think for themselves and form their own opinions, work as a team for a common goal, to define who they are and what they want to be, to embrace similarities and differences, and to “always believe that we will win.”

Webb chose to quote from Dr. Seuss, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

Valedictorian Westin Recktenwald thanked selfless teachers, coaches, and families for their influence on students’ lives and urged students to strive “to use their God-given talents.”

Valedictorians Emily Hash and Michael Tingler performed “Never Alone.” She sang and played guitar while he accompanied her on percussion.

Newcomb recognized the valedictorians: Kayla Altice, Leah Andersen, Madison Bailey, Adrienne Band, Jacob Barker, Molly Carpenter, Grace Carroll, Reagan Castleman, Megan Collins, Lauren Cook, Allyson Dayton, Theodore Drewes, Brennan Greene, Emily Hash, Anna Haught, Ryan James, Cameron Kornegay, Savannah Lindsley, Madison Moses, Keira Naff, Abigail Neidigh, Lauren Newcomb, Adam North, Stephen Olsen, Westin Recktenwald, Christian Robertson, Ryan Schaubach, Alexis Shail, Jeremy Slater, Aubree Smith, Jessica Stanley, Ryan Stanley, Ashlyn St. Clair, Tyra Thompson, Michael Tingler, Garrett Walsh, Charles Watson, Meagan Webb, Leeann Williamson, Peyton Wilmer, and David Zaragoza.

Chad Michael Robertson was recognized as salutatorian.

Graduates received their diplomas, handshakes, and congratulations from Newcomb, Chewning, Assistant Principal Aric Palazzola, School Superintendent Dr. Greg Killough, School Board Chairman Tim Greenway, and the William Byrd guidance department.

The processional, “Alma Mater,” and recessional were performed by the William Byrd band, directed by Daniel Plybon.

Officers for the Class of 2017 recognized included {resident Abigail Griffin, Vice President Grace Carroll, Secretary Savannah Amos, and Treasurer Kayla Altice.

Photographs from the Class of 2017 graduation ceremonies are available on The Vinton Messenger Facebook page.