Fulton High School seniors were encouraged to persevere during their baccalaureate service held Sunday night at First Baptist Church.
A baccalaureate service is a typically Christian-based interdenominational celebration to honor a graduation class from high school or college. The service is generally held a few days before their graduation ceremony.
Dressed in their caps and gowns and led by Ushers Nick Ware and QueShon Ward and Valedictorian Alexias Snow and Salutatorian Monica Brown, the class members marched single file into the church sanctuary to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance” played by Eric Lipford.
Minister Cecil May of Parkway Church of Christ opened the service with the invocation. Allison Butner, music/drama teacher for Fulton Independent School, sang her rendition of “The Greatest Love of All” followed by rousing applause from the audience.
Using Phillipians 3:13-14 as the opening scripture reference for his message, Pastor Jessie L.O. Webb of Brooks Chapel, looked at the senior class and charged, “don’t you dare quit!”
Telling the seniors that he and the Fulton community members are proud of them, Webb also told the students that they are destined for success.
“God has given you the greatest possible chance to be successful in your life,” Webb said. “God has been grooming you for success. You cannot do that if you quit.”
Explaining that Fulton Independent has given the students a hand up and not a hand out, Webb told the seniors that they have to make their minds up not to quit.
After explaining the purpose of a thermostat, Webb told the seniors that they have to become a thermostat and control the climate of their lives.
“Most people just want to be a thermometer and gauge the temperature,” Webb said. “Be a thermostat and control it.”
In order to achieve this, though, Webb told the students that if they never change the climate of their minds, they won’t change the climate of their communities.
“Don’t let a wrong environment define your future,” Webb charged.
Still talking directly to the seniors, Webb told them “you can’t go through life doing nothing.”
“Put in a disciplined effort,” Webb added.
The pastor encouraged the students to do more than just enough to pass as some often do throughout school.
“If you start out life just doing 70 percent, your whole life will just be 70 percent,” Webb said. “Learn to put in a disciplined effort.”
Giving a nod to the adults in the room, Webb told the seniors that everyone there would tell the students that they worked hard for everything they have.
“Be diligent with determination,” the pastor said. “In order to be prosperous in the sight of God, you’ve got to make your mind up to do something.
“The bottom line: to be diligent is to do it and do it right,” Webb added.
Webb also encouraged the seniors to stay focused on their future.
“Many people in this room are past possessed and not forward focused,” Webb said. “If you look at what’s behind you, it’s behind you. But if you’re not careful, you’ll let it catch up with you. We must learn how to keep moving forward.”
The pastor also encouraged the students to avoid referring to themselves and their activities using the word almost.
“I see so many people in life living in the land of Almost,” Webb explained. “Almost means exactly zero. If you told me you almost caught a fish, well you didn’t catch a fish. If you say you almost graduated, you dropped out. If you live in the land of Almost, you’ll never be successful in life.”
Stating that every student has at least one teacher who makes an impact on your life, Webb reminisced about his eighth grade teacher Miss Hill. Rather than being an encourager in his life, Miss Hill, Webb said, was the direct opposite. Instead, the teacher told Webb he wasn’t smart enough to attend college.
“I did enough to just get by, but I knew within me I could do better than that,” Webb recalled. “I got mad at Miss Hill and made an effort to do better. I wanted to prove to Miss Hill I could.”
Because of that eighth grade teacher, Webb set his sights on graduating from high school in the Top 10 of his senior class. Although he didn’t reach that goal, Webb said he finished in the Top 13. He attended the University of Tennessee – Martin and received his bachelor’s degree. Not stopping there, Webb earned a master’s degree, a divinity degree and eventually a doctor of divinity degree. Each time he walked across the stage to receive a diploma, Webb said he wasn’t focused on family and friends in the audience cheering him on. Instead, he looked for Miss Webb in the crowd every time.
“This woman motivated me so much to get out of the stupor of my mind,” Webb said.
Stating that millions of people go to college, Webb encouraged the seniors to not just go to college but to earn a degree and graduate.
“Whatever you do, make sure it’s on your mind,” the minister said. “If it’s not on your mind, it’s not in your future.”
Pastor Stephen Cavness of First Baptist Church led the group in the benediction. While praying, he said, “You created us on purpose for a purpose” and encouraged the seniors to focus on this fact.
Following the recessional, the seniors took time out to pose for photos with other class members, family members and friends.
The FHS Senior Class of 2014 includes Aaliyah Neshell Bean, Rachel Leigh Ann Blassingim, Monica Dale Brown, Robert William Burns, Sara Allison Caldwell, Tara Beth Coy, Rachel Michelle Decker, Cameron Seth Dodson, Tia Shay Forrester, Mason Dene Garland, Hannah Noel Grooms, Erika Angelyna Hamlin, Matthew Ryan Hastings, Autumn Darielle Haynes, Marvonte ShaQuon Hobbs, Cless Riley Holder, Alleya Elynn Jenkins, Brett Donovan Jenkins, Bryan Leon Johnson, Shanetell Dasha Jones, Daquan Raheem Kinney, Jennifer Elizabeth Lee, Ashley Dawn McClanahan, Mary Kathryn Miller, Blake Bobby Roach, Brady Lane Simmons, Alexias Jo Snow, Summer Marie Stewart, Arian Denez Ware, and Michael Morgan Worley.
Graduation is slated for 7 p.m. Friday, May 16, in the Fulton High School Gymnasium.
More photos from Sunday night may be viewed by clicking on the Photo Galleries link on the FHS website.