Archived Story

Proud of BRHS, our community

Published 9:48pm Friday, May 23, 2014

Last night I had the privilege of shooting photos at Benjamin Russell High School’s graduation exercise.

Standing on the field, I couldn’t help but feel proud of our community.

BRHS Principal Jose Reyes announced that the 2014 class had broken an all-time school record and had earned $4.48 million in scholarships. That’s about twice what BRHS students earned five years ago.

All three of the student leaders who spoke did a terrific job. They spoke with poise and with grace, and with enough gusto to spice up their talks. I’m biased, but I was especially proud of Valedictorian Rosie Lamberth, a close friend of the family who I’ve watched grow up in church since she was a baby. Rosie made me laugh a few times and I got a little misty-eyed as she spoke about what our school system had meant to her.

A couple of weeks ago I watched as my son James graduated from the University of Alabama’s Business School with a business management major. I was sitting with our family and my daughter Riley Frances got a little put out with me because she said I was breathing deep every time a student’s family and friends started hooting and hollering as they walked across the stage to receive their diploma.

Everybody in my family knows when I start breathing deeply, it’s an outward and visible sign that I don’t approve. I can’t help it. They know it. It’s a regular topic of family conversation.

I don’t mind people celebrating a big day in their family’s life. They should celebrate.

What I mind is that the hooting for one student drowned out the announcement of the next student’s name – or the next two students. I find it rude and disrespectful.

Before Principal Reyes began awarding diplomas, he asked the audience to hold their applause until all the diplomas were handed out, to refrain from hollering during the ceremony and to not get up and leave their seats to take photos. He repeated that request.

And the students and the parents and the friends respected it. I heard every name of the more than 220 students who graduated last night.

A single family did let their enthusiasm get a little out of hand, and Reyes halted the ceremony until all was quiet, and then added a long pause of silence, before he began again.

You know, earning almost $4.5 million says a lot about a class of scholars. It says our students are getting a very solid education that institutes of higher learning value. It says that universities have faith in the future of BRHS students, enough faith to invest heavily in our young men and women.

But the fact that thousands of Alexander City residents and students who are bursting with pride have the discipline and the decorum to honor each other and respect what our principal says as much to me as the amazing scholarship total.

BRHS couldn’t beat the University of Alabama on the football field this fall, but I’m a witness to the fact that last night BRHS and Alexander City beat the pants off of the Crimson Tide’s graduation ceremony.

Finally, I think Jose Reyes’ last public act as our high school principal deserves comment. Reyes, who is an involved, passionate educator, is leaving Alexander City to take a principal’s job in Tallassee next year. He said he wasn’t going to cry, but when he led a call-and-response cheer “We Are … Ben Russell” with the entire senior class and then said “that means something” and then said he would take that moment with him for the rest of his life, I saw a tear.

And that is a deep testament to our school system as well.

Go Cats!

Boone is publisher of The Outlook.