By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor

Pictured above, the Lincoln High School Class of 2017 tossed their caps in the air at the conclusion of their graduation ceremony on Saturday, singing the Cougar fight song together one last time.

On Saturday evening, May 27th, 116 Lincoln High School seniors participated in graduation exercises; this was the 39th graduating class at Lincoln High School.

Things have changed quite a bit from days gone by!  Graduating from high school is no longer just a walk across the stage to ceremoniously be handed a diploma.  Today, that is just the finality of it all; what leads up to this moment now encompasses an entire week of special events!

It all began last Sunday with the Baccalaureate Service held at Jewel City Church.  The service was student led by Senior Class Officers.  Student Body President Kendal DeMarco gave the welcome, and McKinley Clark presented a slide show of memories of the Lincoln Class of 2017.  Each of the class officers took part in some manner.

Gabe and AJ Hammond addressed the class, and the sermon was delivered by Jerry Reel, pastor at Zion Assembly Church of God in Barrackville, and also the father of Bailey Reel, one of the 2017 graduates.

Last Monday was the seniors’ first formal practice in the gymnasium for all of the pomp and circumstance of graduation.  What followed on Tuesday included a bus trip to the students’ former elementary and middle schools where they took part in a nostalgic “Walk the Halls” activity, recalling memories of their experiences from past years.

On Wednesday a Senior Breakfast was held with participation from several selected students and class officers.  In addition, Mackenzie Hawkins, one of the top ten in her class, addressed those present and Class Historian Darian Darway presented a slide show consisting of photos of every class member’s senior picture along with their baby picture.

Thursday also presented a busy schedule with the Senior Banquet held that evening followed by the Senior Assembly/Awards Ceremony.  Anthony Tate gave the invocation at the banquet, and Justin Hughes, another student in the top ten of the class, spoke, along with Class Advisor Rob Hawkins.  The top three in the Class of 2017, Allison McIntyre, Erin Hoffman and Erika Hayhurst, each delivered a message to those gathered at the Awards Ceremony.

This was a rather lengthy event, largely because there were so many awards and scholarships to be presented.  State Senator Michael Romano distributed PROMISE Scholarships to 27 graduates, the largest number in the history of Lincoln High School.  Other numerous scholarships were given as well.  Although a final total had yet to be computed by press time, administrators say the scholarship amounts exceeded $500,000 – not including renewable scholarships!

Friday was reserved for a final practice for graduation, which took place Saturday evening at 7:00 p.m.  The Cougar Chase Riley and Miss Cougar Kendal DeMarco spoke along with Dr. David Wray, a 2004 Lincoln graduate who was The Cougar during his senior year.

Although outdoor ceremonies at Stydahar Field had been planned, due to a 50% chance of rain, graduation was moved indoors to the gymnasium.  Principal Jimmy Lopez said that he hated to disappoint the class but it was a chance he could not risk particularly because there were band instruments, microphones, speakers, a piano, etc. involved. Graduates had also requested to end their graduation with fireworks; that, too, had to be cancelled due to weather risks.

However, all ended well.  Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Holly Hawkins stated, “After every Cougar win – basketball, football, or whatever, the teams take the floor or the field and are joined by all the students, and they celebrate by singing the Cougar fight song accompanied by the band.  It has become their way to celebrate.  Since graduation was certainly another celebration, that is how they chose to end their graduation evening; they threw their caps in the air and sang the Cougar fight song.  It may be the start of a new tradition!”

Administrators concur that 2017 has been a unique year … an exceptional class … lots of Cougar pride … lots of students involved in community service … and a student body who became a ‘family’.  During the year, the football team made it to the state playoffs and got to the second round; both the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams went to the State Tournament for the first time in school history; and the tennis team also ranked high at year’s end.  The Lincoln High School Class of 2017 was exemplary – both athletically and academically.

Many of the students will be college bound in the fall or heading for a technical career.  A few are going into the military.  School staff members say they are certain these students leave with confidence and will live the lives they have imagined … greeting their futures with anticipation … dreaming big … and working hard to achieve.

High school graduation is both an ending and a beginning.  The students’ roots were established at Lincoln High School; now it is time for them to spread their wings and fly.  Because they have been referred to as such a unique and outstanding class, they are expected to SOAR!  And perhaps some of them will return ‘home’ following college to utilize their talents!???

The members of Lincoln High School’s Class of 2017 who participated in graduation ceremonies included: Khristian Dale Adkins, Tara Dawn Aley, Robert Lee Ankrom, Raistlin Turk Ashcraft, Jesse Alan Bailey, Emily Rae-Ann Beck. Victoria Rose Beezel, Halie Taylor Bennet, Parker Dale Benson, Alexis Yvonne Berrish, Kisha Ann Beverly, Cameron Tyler Blake, Gabriella Gwen Bland, Kyle Joseph Bradley, Hope Elaine Bray, Mykenna Drew Buckhannon, Amanda Jean Campbell, William Thomas Carroll, SueAnn Pratt Carvelli, McKinley Paige Clark, Kasi Lynn Clousson, Jasmine Nadine Cochran, Jacob Lee Coffin, Joshua Delbert Coffin, Megan Elizabeth Cornell, Shallon Nicole Creamer, Christina Marie Cropp, Kelsey Nicole Cummings, Sierra Nicole Cunningham, Darian Hope Darway, Kendal Shaye DeMarco, Morgan Rose Dewitt, Zachary Scott Dunlop,  Austin Clay Fisher, Sean Alex Flannagan, Jasmine Denise Flowers, Evan Michael Frankenberry, Tylor Stephen Gifford, Joshua Michael Goad, Logan Aries Godfrey, Hunter Scott Goodwin, James Robert Gregory, Sophia Lee Handley, Halie Paige Hardman, Kallie Raquel Harris, Brendin Robert Hawkins, Mackenzie Leigh Hawkins, Erika Homba Hayhurst, Sierra Skye Holt, Noah Jordan Hoskinson, Erin Michelle Huffman, Justin Joseph Hughes, Madison Grace Jefferies, Anthony James Kellar, William Cody Kropp, Lindsey Marie LaNeve, Jonathan Lloyd Lipovich, Preston Joseph Male, Dustin Ryan Marks, Brent Dalton Martin, Cameron Michael Martin, Shayla Brook Martin, Lacie Nicole McCoy, Nicholle Lee McCroby, Hunter Cole McGary, Allison Krista McIntyre, Savannah Grace Milligan, Brandon Alexander Mollohan, James Franklin Nelson, Tiffany Jo Newbrough, Seth Thomas Oldaker, Nathan Scott Oliverio, Jacob Edward Owens, Kyle Paul Owens, Kylie Nicole Owens, Sarah Elizabeth Pillo, Alivia Nicci Rain Pratt, Joshua Mason Proffitt, Jonathan Tyler Quinn, Bailey Lynn Reel, Steven Edward Revels, Daymon Holt Reynolds, Kearstyn Shea Richards, Chase Mitchell Riley, Zachary Michael Robey, Danielle Brooke Rogers, Devin Tylor Selmon, Justin Robert Shaner, Paige Nicole Shanholtz, Tyler John Shaver, Morgan Kylee Shaw, Tyler Andrew Shingleton, Christopher Ray Skidmore, Deanna Elizabeth Smith, Harley Elizabeth Smith, Marlena Gene Smith, Andriana Felice Snyder, Adam Matthew Sorrow, Mikayla Renee Stark, Robert Allen Stevens, Hanna Elise Stoper, Sheyenne Marie Summers, Collin Douglas Swiger, Roderick Keith Swiger, Shelby Marie Swiger, Anthony Michael Tate, Nathanael Edward Walter Thompson,  Thomas Scott Towns, Sarah Kathleen Vecchio, Tayler Lyne Watson, Brandon Michael Weaver, Tyler Daniel Willis, Robert Dale Winkler, Shelby Nicole Woods,  Kendra Renee Yeager, and Bellany Hope Young.

Congratulations to all!