Cairo High School Salutatorian Austin Watson and Valedictorian Nathaniel Batey sent their classmates off with some encouragement during Friday’s graduation ceremony at West Thomas Stadium.
Watson, son of Mark and Dianne Watson, began his remarks by briefly welcoming the estimated 3,000 guests and explaining that he has never lived in Grady County. Still, he considers it an honor to be a part of the Cairo family.
“I’ve never lived in Grady County, but came here when my mom started working with the school system. I actually live in Tallahassee. People have often asked me why I chose to go here rather than a school in Tallahassee. Cairo High School has a sense of family. We feel each other’s joy and pain,” Watson said.
Watson, set to attend Florida State University this fall, encouraged the class to make the most of its opportunities. He concluded by saluting his family of Syrupmakers.
“There’s only one family of Syrupmakers. God bless all of you— and as cliché as it sounds— for you, your family and children— go change the world,” Watson said
Valedictorian Nathaniel Batey talked about the anticipation of “the rest of their lives.”
He said, “Classmates, I’m sure you are as excited as I am. We are about to begin the rest of our lives. It’s time for us to make a way for ourselves. All of our opportunities will look different. Some of us will seek higher education, the workforce, family life or military.”
Batey told the story of his two family dogs breaking free of the wireless system that keeps them near the perimeter of his house. He and his family looked for the two lost pets and found them sitting on the porch of their home, waiting to be fed.
He joked, “We have been much like that and, eventually, we will long for the help of Cairo High School. However, Mr. McCurry will not be as accepting as my family was to our dogs.”
Batey, headed to Georgia Tech to dual major in Aerospace Engineering and Business Administration, then told another tale about biology class and believing in a higher power.
“At some point, a biology teacher has taught us about life,” he said. “I believe a higher power caused our lives and some people think we are here by chance. It’s improbable. The point I’m trying to make is that we are not here tonight by chance, but a divine act of God. The fact we are here proves it was God.
“And what does this have to do with graduation? We all have a purpose. Tonight, we have the largest number of honor graduates Cairo High School has ever seen. There are endless possibilities.”
Batey left his class with the following words, “I encourage you all to let’s make a difference in the world. God gave us life and let’s not waste it. Don’t live by chance alone, but beat the odds. In the words of our teacher, Mr. Gainous, ‘It’s been fun. It’s been real. It’s been real fun.”
Reporter Susanne Reynolds can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1826.