NEWBERRY — Newberry Academy graduated 14 students Friday evening, but before each student received their diploma Shelby Fulmer spoke about each of their “books” during the commencement address.
Fulmer has been a teacher at Newberry Academy for the last 39 years, and is retiring this year. She has been on this journey with each of the graduates during their time at Newberry Academy.
“This is the night you have all been waiting for, how many times during this past year, especially the past few weeks, have I heard, I can’t wait until I graduate. Your special night is finally here, the only thing standing between you and your diploma is my speech,” Fulmer said. “Tonight I want to talk to you about ‘books,’ I’m not gonna talk about just one ‘book,’ but 15.”
The books Fulmer discussed were their books, 14 of which began being written in 1999 and 2000. Fulmer begain with chapter three, 10 of the students on stage were enrolled by their parents into the preschool program at the Academy.
“So in 2003, holding your parents hands, 10 of you on this stage ended up in the preschool program,” Fulmer said. “Your parents left you with all those people you did not know, you were a bit overwhelmed and did not know what to do. After a few days you began to feel comfortable and began learning new things and making new friends.”
For those 10 students, the characters were the same, as was the setting.
“Book 15 is my ‘Book of Life,’ in 2003 I became a character in your book, but you also became characters in my book. I was your music teacher, but I was also Hunter’s (Taylor) Nana, because of those two factors, we were appearing in each others books in school and away from school,” Fulmer said.
Fast forward to the second grade, another student on stage became a character in their books, and they became characters in his.
“Daniel (Bannister), boy did he add excitement to our books,” Fulmer said.
In the fifth grade, many changes took place. The students had to decide between band and chorus, they had more options about sports and they were no longer in a self contained classroom.
“That year, Sara (Gray) and her family decided she would go to another school,” Fulmer said. “Midway through seventh grade, Sara returned, and in ninth grade Bryce’s (Horn) mom decided he would attend. I almost forgot, in seventh grade, Daniel decided he would attend another school, but after one day, he decided he loved us so much he would return.”
In the 10th grade, Adam Becker joined the class, and this past year so did Wesley Huffstetler.
“After tonight your lives will change, as you continue to write your books, you will have new characters and a new setting,” Fulmer said.
During the night’s ceremony, class valedictorian and salutatorian took the opportunity to not only thank those present, but also look back on their time in school.
“To all the parents, thank you for not killing us during our sassy, know it all years. For some of you this is your graduation day too, no more late night basketball games, no more prom dress shopping and, on the positive side, no more parents council,” said Amber Suber, valedictorian. “To all the teachers and staff, thank you for dealing with us for 15 years, I know we could have been a handful at times, but thank you for all the letters of recommendation this year and encouragement throughout the years. To all the coaches, thank you for dedicating all your free time and putting all your effort into helping us be the best we can be.”
Suber also took a moment to thank Fulmer, for always making sure they knew where to be and when to be there over the years.
“And classmates, we thought this day would never be here, thank you for making my days at Newberry Academy way more interesting. From arguing about the stock market with each other, from putting dead birds in the back of Amy’s truck, I wouldn’t want to go to school with anyone else,” she said.
Sara Gray, salutatorian, said she didn’t know what to talk about for her speech, but realized it didn’t matter what she said, as long as it came from the heart.
“Tonight is not about all the crazy stuff we did in high school, it’s about taking the plunge into the next chapter of our lives. After tonight, we have to start thinking of ourselves, we are not in high school anymore, most of us are legally adults, and that means we have to start making some big decisions,” Gray said. “We won’t be here to help each other out with what comes next, which is why graduation is so bittersweet.”
Gray said she is excited to see what her classmates will do, and the next four years will be ones they try and figure out what in fact comes next.
“Whatever the class decides to do, I’m sure it will be amazing, they have a very bright future ahead of them and I can’t wait to look back and see what great things they do with their lives,” she said.
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.