HORSE CAVE — Jennifer Wright stood in the cafeteria at Caverna High School on Thursday night and looked at the students who were busily putting on their bright purple gowns and mortarboards prior to the start of the school's commencement exercise.
Wright, a social studies teacher at CHS, has known the Class of 2018 for a long time.
“I was in the middle school and they moved me to the high school three years ago, so I had them in middle school and then I had them up here in high school,” she said. “I've been with them for so long that I feel like they are my babies.”
At a table near Wright was Sebastian Howard and Selena Daugherty, who posed for a photo with their 8-month-old son, Ky'ree.
“This week has been really exciting,” Howard said, but added it has also been a little sad, knowing he won't be with his friends after graduation like he has been while in high school.
Howard hadn't been part of CHS' Class of 2018 for very long.
“I actually got with this group my sophomore year,” he said.
He moved to CHS from Warren Central High School in Bowling Green.
After graduation, he plans to be a HVAC technician for Hiller Plumbing, Heating, Cooling and Electrical in Bowling Green.
“My plans are to get started in HVAC at Hiller in Bowling Green and start a career and take care of my family,” he said. Daugherty plans to work as a cosmetologist also in Bowling Green.
She said the days leading up to Thursday night had been a little crazy and as for it being a sad time, she said, “It's always sad when the music plays.”
Rosie Ochoa and Caileigh Hudgins stepped just inside the gym to take a look at the crowd before the graduation ceremony started.
Ochoa talked a little about what it's like to be a senior who is about to become a high school graduate.
“A lot's going through my mind,” she said. “Like how I'm about to go to college and how I'm about to move out. Stuff like that. Really, college is going to be on my mind and how I'm about to leave my classmates. We've been together for so long. I moved here in fifth grade, but it's just as if I had been here for as long.”
The days prior to Thursday night had been very emotional for her.
“Monday we had the walk through the elementary and that was when it first hit me that we were actually graduating this week,” she said.
It had also been an emotional time for Hudgins, especially when she thought about leaving.
“I came in the seventh grade, but they are like family,” she said.
Ochoa plans to attend Western Kentucky University to study nursing, while Hudgins plans to study business at WKU.
Alyia Maulden was valedictorian of the class. She described the days leading up to graduation as being just “unreal” when she thought about graduating and leaving her friends behind.
Maulden had been a part of the Class of 2018 at Caverna since she was in kindergarten.
In giving her valedictory speech, she began by talking about how the Class of 2018 was about to celebrate a milestone.
She quoted Theodore Roosevelt, who said, “Believe you can and you're halfway there.”
“We may be closing the doors on our high school years, but we are opening the door to our futures,” she said. “My advice to all of you is believe in yourselves and you will go far.”
Maulden plans to attend Eastern Kentucky University to study criminal justice.
“I want to become a detective,” she said, whether that be with the FBI, the Office of Homeland Security or with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“I grew up around the public services. My dad was a firefighter and we've always been very big into that. It's always been an interest of mine to go into law enforcement.”
Skylar Stockton was the salutatorian for the class. She was also class president.
Members of the Class of 2018 who made the top 10 are: Maulden, Stockton, Erica Dunagan, Shanlyn Bybee, Jesse Bohannon, Theodora Eze, Jakob Maynard, Kimberly Wilson, Hailey Graves and Nicholas Gunn.
Thursday night was also an emotional time for Jessica Miles, guidance counselor at CHS.
“For me personally, this group is special because this group came in with me,” she said.
Miles started to work at CHS when the Class of 2018 were just freshmen.
“They are a really good group of kids,” she said.
Also during the graduation ceremony, the CHS Class of 1988 was recognized for its 30th year anniversary.