CHARLOTTE – June 11 was a celebration of the 482 Butler High School seniors who received their diploma and embarked on a new journey of their lives.
In front of a mostly packed Bojangles’ Coliseum crowd, Principal John LeGrand closed the ceremony thanking parents and guardians, the Butler High staff and others for their commitment to the graduates.
But, due to an on-campus shooting that sent shock waves through Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the nation and the surrounding area, LeGrand took a special moment to thank the graduates themselves.
“I must admit that this Class of 2019 is extra special to me,” the principal began. “I can say there is not a class of students I’ve enjoyed working with more at my time at Butler or as an educator. We have shared many enjoyable experiences over the years… but unfortunately, we’ve shared a very difficult time as tragedy struck our campus with the loss of our classmate Bobby McKeithen. Oct. 29, 2018 is a day none of us will ever forget. As I reflect on that day, I take this opportunity to think each of you for your strength, your support and your love during the difficult days and weeks that followed our darkest hour. You and your classmates were an inspiration to me, our staff and our community as we responded to the unthinkable in a very positive, unified way. I am forever grateful for the Class of 2019 for your leadership when I needed it most. You are the true definition of #ButlerStrong, and I can’t wait to see the very many accomplishments you will attain as we move forward.”
The #ButlerStrong theme was one heard throughout the ceremony.
The choir put on a wonderful rendition of “Unwritten,” a pop song by Natasha Bedingfield that speaks of today being the beginning of a new chapter.
Two soloists brought big cheers from the crowd, which led to Butler Senior Class President Alyssa Choate’s speech.
Choate spoke some on McKeithen’s untimely passing and relationships she’s formed in the Butler community, but left the stage with another powerful reference to the #ButlerStrong theme that echoed throughout the ceremony,
But Choate’s biggest ovation when she sent a heartfelt shoutout to her mom, who was sharing her birthday with Choate’s graduation.
Salutatorian Cooper Lee is president of the National Government Society and a National Merit finalist who accrued a 4.54 grade-point average at Butler. Lee will attend UNC-Chapel Hill to study science and math.
“You may not remember what a covalent bond is, but the particularly joyous or tough times will stick with you life,” he said. “The memories of hard times will provide motivation and resilience and the memories of friendships and joy will provide an anchor for the hard times ahead.”
Valedictorian Nadia Bogomolova is the recipient of at least four prestigious scholarships, a Charlotte Observer Scholar All-Star and a student-athlete, as she was captain of the tennis and swim teams. Bogomolova carries a 4.57 grade-point average and is going to UNC-CH to study business administration.
She reminded graduates how much the Butler community has to be proud of, including great students, staff, parents, guardians and friends. She pointed to the success of the arts, choir, band, athletics and many more areas that students excelled.
She then talked about families and how Butler had become hers. Bogomolova said she met her best friends during the first semester of freshman year, and they have stayed close no matter what.
“Families are like that,” she said. “They always have our backs. Families don’t give up on us when it seems everyone else has.”
And as the graduates walked the stage to receive their diplomas, one quote rang true.
“If we are to remember anything about our time at Butler,” Choate said. “It is that we’ll always have a home here, and we’ll always have a family here. Once a Bulldog, always a Bulldog.”