The Georgetown County Class of 2019 said goodbye to an era and hello to the future during commencement exercises last week at the county's four public high schools.
Hundreds of graduates crossed the stage to receive their diplomas as family, friends and relatives cheered them on.
Here are highlights from graduation in Georgetown County:
Andrews High School
A standing-room- only crowd filled the gymnasium at Andrews High as the community celebrated the 160 or graduates in the Yellow Jackets' Class of 2019.
"We are so proud of you," Principal Paula Anderson told the group, dressed in gowns of black and gold. This was Anderson's first graduating class as head administrator of the school.
The crowd roared with applause as the departing seniors moved their tassels across their caps.
Valedictorian Elissa Reckdenwald, whose family moved to Andrews from Mount Pleasant when she was in middle school, thanked her classmates for "welcoming her with open arms."
"But now, standing here in front of all of you, I couldn't imagine being anywhere else," she said.
Reflecting on her first day at Rosemary Middle School, Reckdenwald said those first impressions have turned into everlasting friendships.
"This transition has blessed me with a strong mindset of what it means to be a small-town community member," she said.
She praised the strong relationships between students, faculty and staff at the school as well as the range of honors the Class of 2019 has earned.
"None of these accomplishments would have happened without the community of Andrews High School behind us," she said.
Looking to the future, Reckdenwald said she and her peers will face challenges, but urged them to "never give up."
"For all of the challenges that we have faced here at Andrews High School have only made us stronger." she said.
"I urge all of you to take in all that you can on your next adventure, because it might be the best thing that has ever happened to you, just like moving to this town was for me," Reckdenwald said.
Salutatorian Sully Hutto told the graduates she knows they will go out into the world and be difference makers because of their experience at Andrews High.
"I hope that I'm looking at a crowd of people who are proud of where they sit and of what they've built," Hutto said.
"This next chapter will fly by too, so start now," she said.
"Remember this day, because you are unstoppable. You are accomplished; you are celebrated. And you have every reason to feel ridiculously happy and overly proud," Hutto said.
Carvers Bay High School
Carvers Bay High School graduated fewer than 100 students but their ceremony rivaled any of the larger graduations held across the district. The school’s gymnasium was at full capacity on June 6.
In his address to his classmates, Salutatorian Tyrin Gamble provided a quote he said helped make it through his high school years.
“Nothing, and I repeat, nothing in this life will be handed to you,” Gamble said. “If you want it, you have to put forth maximum effort and work hard in order to obtain it.”
Gamble left his fellow graduates with a simple charge for their lives.
“Whatever this life may bring us, let us remember that we will rise,” he said. “Under all adverse circumstances, we will rise. Through all the doubt and disbelief, we will rise. Through all the hardship and stress, we will rise. Once again -- Carvers Bay Class of 2019 -- we will rise.”
Valedictorian Cody Glover reminded everyone that the future will be the key to their success.
“Now is no time to reminisce about the past but look forward into our future,” said Glover. “What lies in front of us is by no means going to be easy, but nothing worth having is easy to obtain.”
Glover commended the senior class for helping one other prosper during their time at the school.
“We need to be thankful for each other,” he said. “The friendships we have made here will last a lifetime. We have supported each other and helped each other to succeed here at Carvers Bay High. Often on graduation day, you look outside for our heroes, but I see them sitting here today.”
State Rep. Carl Anderson presented his annual scholarship to Kamiah Green and Jacqueline Newman. During the ceremony he paid tribute to retiring Deputy Superintendent Dr. Celeste Pringle by giving her a state flag that had flown over the State House.
Georgetown High School
The Bulldogs' commencement exercise was a beginning, not an ending, Georgetown High Principal Craig Evans told the 221 graduates assembled before him on the evening of June 5.
Clad in dark blue caps and gowns, the group was lauded by family, friends and relatives who packed the school's gymnasium.
State Rep. Carl Anderson presented his annual scholarship to Monaye Smith. The scholarship is named after Anderson's late son, Airman 1st Class Carl Anderson Jr., who was killed while serving in Iraq 15 years ago this August.
In his address, Valedictorian Gabriel Holmes said it is hard to believe he and his classmates are standing on the threshold to adulthood.
He spoke about the choices "that can define us and impact our lives in major ways."
"Today is the just beginning of a whole new life," Holmes said, challenging his peers to be the best they can be.
"We are unique. We are special. We have been blessed with gifts, talents and abilities." Holmes said. "And it is up to us to be faithful stewards of those gifts, talents and abilities."
"We must choose wisely," he said
Salutatorian Bret Kirtley said the Class of 2019 should be "super proud" of how far they've come.
"But despite our differences, we share common bonds that together make us among the best to ever graduate from Georgetown High School," Kirtley said.
"We know the value of hard work," he said. "Success is definitely in our future."
"The laughs we shared, and the good times we've had at this school will surely stay with us wherever it is we go," Kirtley said.
"As graduates of Georgetown High School, we now have the confidence to take on anything that life has to offer," he said.
Waccamaw High School
At Waccamaw High, 189 seniors crossed the stage in the school’s gymnasium to accept their diploma before a large crowd of family and friends on June 5. It was the final ceremony for Scott Streiffert to announce each student's name. He is retiring after 27 years as a teacher and a coach at the school.
Mary Catherine Horton, the student body president, reminded everyone to not forget what they have learned in their four years at WHS.
“It’s the lessons of integrity, responsibility, honesty, humility and compassion that have taught us to be Warriors,” Horton said.
Salutatorian Lena Gammel spoke to her peers about the power of choices they will face after high school
“Life is all about the choices you make,” said Gammel. “Every second of every day we make choices. We must live with the result of those choices. Choose wisely and make your choices count.”
Gammel also told the graduates to always have the right mindset in everything they do.
“If you believe in yourself and block out the negative voices, you will be capable of reaching your goals,” said Gammel. “You only have control of yourself, the decisions you make and how you react to them.”
Valedictorian Jared McCabe told his fellow grads to not fear defeat in their lives after high school.
“Too many opportunities are missed when we think about what other people are going to say, how we are going to perform or what if we can’t do it,” said McCabe. “The main we thing need to focus on is growth.”
McCabe told his fellow graduates to always uphold the principles of being a Warrior.
“I think that we might not be destined to win all of the time, but we can all be destined to fight,” McCabe said. “We may do it for our friends, families or even ourselves, but let’s make sure that we stay Warriors and we continue to fight in what we believe is right and good.”
Principal Adam George announced the graduates earned $5.4 million in scholarship offers, drawing large cheers from the audience.