Franklin High School Class of ’23 crosses threshold with gratitude

Published 6:50 pm Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Thankfulness for the education and opportunities given over the years was the dominant theme of the Franklin High School graduation ceremony on Friday, June 2. The event occurred in the Regional Workforce Development Center of Camp Community College.

Markelyn Darion Fenner

In his welcoming address, senior Markelyn Darion Fenner said, “This is a milestone that we’ve all waited to achieve from the beginning of elementary school to now … I would like to give a special recognition and thanks to the following for being there for us every step of the way in this amazing journey: To our principal, Mr. Travis Felts; our assistant principals, Ms. Tanyeka Thornton, Dr. Robert Parsons and Mr. Paul Jackson; our guidance department, Ms. Ale Massenburg and Ms. Kelsey Bunch; and all the faculty and staff. I want to say thank you on behalf of the Class of 2023 for setting the foundation and expectations for the success at Franklin High School. To our parents and guardians for taking care of us every day, making sure we made it to school on time; making sure our grades were up to par, and loved us no matter  

what. On behalf of all graduates we say, ‘Thank you’ with the love that we can give, for we could not have done it without you.”

Naziyah Shamarae Turner

In her senior address, Naziyah Shamarae Turner, said, “I want to thank everyone that made this graduation possible. To the graduating class of 2023: After all our hard work we finally made it. Congratulations! Most people graduate to make someone else proud, whether it’s their parents, grandparents or just your whole family. Today is the day we can be proud of ourselves. They may have pushed you for success, but you were the one fighting to get to this day. What comes after this? Become successful? What does it mean to become successful? Go to college? Have lots of money? Become famous? It’s all your decision. Success is the ability to reach your

goals in life, whatever those goals may be. Don’t let anyone dictate your next decision in your life if you think you’re making the right decision. Always remember opportunity is in our hands. Don’t let it pass by without making the most of it.”

Dmari Lamon Eley

Salutatorian Dmari Lamon Eley said, “As we celebrate the start of a new era in our lives … let us reflect on the good times. We have laughed together. We have cried together. Experienced joys and pains. There have been many lessons taught to help us along in this game called life. Let us not forget to always look up no matter where we meet and to not forget where we came from. Always reach for the highest star, and let nothing and nobody stop you. On every road you take, there will be successes and there will be failures. Winston Churchill once stated, ‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.’ Class of 2023, continue to walk toward your dreams. This is only the beginning. Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll be amongst the stars.”

Lana Cecilia Kopacki told her classmates, “Congratulations! Today we stand at the threshold of an important milestone in our lives. As we gather here to celebrate our achievements, I am honored to stand before you as valedictorian of this wonderful graduation class. On behalf of the students, I would like to express my deep gratitude to any families, teachers and friends who have supported us throughout this wonderful journey. When I look back at the experiences we shared, I am reminded of the countless lessons and growth we’ve experienced. We came to this high school as different people, each with unique dreams, aspirations and talents. But over the years we have grown into a community united by our shared triumphs and challenges. We learned the importance of perseverance in our classes and the skills of collaboration through group projects. We grew academically, emotionally and socially while forming friendships that will last a lifetime.”

Lana Cecilia Kopacki

She continued, “As we prepare for the next chapter of our lives, we find ourselves at a crossroads of opportunities and endless possibilities. We have the knowledge, skills and new experience to lead a world hungry for innovation, compassion and change. But remember, with great knowledge comes great responsibility. We have received the precious gift of an education that will help us make an impact on the lives of others and the world at large. As we move forward, let’s open our hearts and take responsibility, dream and reach for the stars. Let us use our education not only for personal gain but also as a tool to encourage others to overcome barriers and contribute to important causes.

“In a world full of complex issues, let us seek to understand ourselves, set aside differences, and make positive changes. In this endeavor we shall face challenges, setbacks and moments of self-doubt. But we must remember that each of us has the strength and resilience to overcome adversity. Embrace the spirit of lifelong learning as you begin your journey. Education doesn’t end with a degree. So never stop expanding your horizons. Seek wisdom from around the world. Embrace diverse perspectives, and foster a culture of intellectual curiosity and humility.

“I would like to take a moment to express my gratitude to everyone here,” she continued. “We thank our parents for their unwavering support, sacrifice and belief in our potential. Thank you teachers and mentors for your guidance, patience and unwavering dedication to our growth. To my friends and classmates, thank you for all the memories, laughter and companionship that has made this journey so wonderful. As we bid farewell to this chapter of our lives, let us move forward with a heart full of gratitude, a head full of knowledge, and a burning desire to make a difference. Together we can create a better, more inclusive future filled with limitless opportunities for all. May we always strive for the future. Congratulations, Class of 2023!”

The honor graduates and the recipients of awards and scholarships were then either called to the stage or asked to stand as their names were called. Dr. Corey McCray, president of Camp Community College, announced those seniors who earned one-year certificates and associate degrees.

When it came his turn, Franklin City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Carlton Carter also lauded the seniors. 

“Today marks the ending of one journey and beginning of another,” he said. “The path up to this point hasn’t been an easy one over the last four years. You’ve experienced a global pandemic. You’ve experienced remote learning. You’ve experienced political unrest. You’ve experienced a global crisis and so much more, but you made it. Despite all those obstacles, you overcame them. Each one of you has your own story. Each one of you has your own personal challenges that you have faced.” 

“I want you to think about this feeling right now,” he continued, asking the seniors to look around them. He pointed out their families, friends, classmates, administrators and teachers. “These are the people who have helped you on your journey and will continue to assist you in the next trek of your life. This is only the beginning of opportunities that await you.”

The superintendent noted that recent encounters with the students impressed and inspired him on “how to make Franklin City Public Schools a better place in the future.”

He said he learned of their passion to be heard, to be agents of change, to be successful and to help others. Carter urged them to maintain those passions, seize opportunities and not allow negative comments from other people to discourage them whatsoever. The superintendent assured them they will have continued support from himself, the administrators and teachers “for as long as you need us.”

To prove that, he called Janiyah Barbara Howard, Mia Samone Ricks, Naziyah Shamarae

Turner and Zaniya Nevaeh Slaughter to the stage. Carter said he learned that each has a plan

to major or minor in education. 

To support those goals, he said, “I am, as of now, offering you a job.” To everyone’s great surprise, Felts handed each of them a contract with Franklin City Public Schools. Upon graduating from their colleges, the young women need only sign the papers, and they’ll have the start of their careers.

The presentation of 77 diplomas quickly followed, with many family members cheering on their sons and daughters. The principal echoed the words of other speakers, reminding the seniors that learning continues throughout their lives. 

“Class of 2023, I’m proud to have gotten to know you these past four years, some even longer,” he said. 

He instructed the diploma recipients to stand and move their tassels right to left and declared the seniors as official graduates of Franklin High School. In celebration, they cheered, and many threw their mortar boards into the air.

The graduates then marched outside of the building… and into the world.