Praise for the honors ceremony


Debra Klevens

Principal Jeremy Mitchell awards senior Nehemiah Colyer the 2017 Founders Award recipient. The Founder’s Award is given to a student who exemplifies what West students stand for: good character, academics, school spirit and is the highest school honor.

Every year, the entire student body congregates in the gym to celebrate the students that have achieved great things. We get out of class for a while, get to hear about students we might not know and generally relax before finals truly bear down on us. Last year, Holt Priest was given the Founder’s Award, the highest and most prestigious award for graduating seniors, and he received a standing ovation. Furthermore, every academic department honors its outstanding students, and the athletics department celebrates its prodigious players. The honors ceremony is a valuable way to celebrate student successes without looming over students throughout the year, and it promotes a spirit of excellence and unity within our school.

The majority of the student body, rather than sitting in the chairs waiting to hear their name called, are packed into the bleachers to sit and watch, and although it can get quite boring, it is still a valuable experience. For some, it might be a source of motivation to get through finals, for others it may be little more than a waste of time, but either way, showing every student what they are capable of through the accomplishments of their peers is essential. Most students know at least one person who is being honored, and this connection can, hopefully, show everyone that each and every one of us is capable of great things, each in our own right.

Beginning with the way that award recipients are chosen, the honors ceremony stays unintrusive and noncompetitive amongst the student body. Most of the awards are chosen solely by staff members through their recommendations of students, so there is no pressure placed on students to fulfill a certain set of requirements in search of an award. In addition, the honors ceremony isn’t really talked about in early parts of the school year, it comes into relevance towards the end of April, so it has little influence over student choices throughout the year. Because of these factors, the honors ceremony allows the school to honor those who achieve on their own, not those who achieve for the sake of getting a handshake and saying they won something.

Most students know at least one person who is being honored, and this connection can, hopefully, show everyone that each and every one of us is capable of great things, each in our own right.”

Not only is the selection process admirable and inclusive of all faculty opinions, the awards being given reflect the same kind of inclusion for all types of achievement. Every grade level has an award of their own: the freshman class’ Rookie of the Year, the Outstanding Sophomore, a deserving junior receives the Jay “Spike” Turner award and the Neil Thompson Memorial Award for the senior Comeback Kid. In addition to a representation of every grade level, students are honored for their academic and musical excellence, athletic prowess and their strengths and contribution to their communities, a balance not achieved by many schools. There is a place for everyone’s assorted talents in the honors ceremony, and that in of itself is worth celebrating.

Even rarer still, the honors ceremony highlights student successes both on and off of campus. Students who give back to their community or otherwise live out West High’s values outside of the school day are honored for that as well as their in school achievements. The award category of “embodiment of tradition” focuses especially on students as whole, rounded individuals—a recognition unusual in a world where high schoolers’ lives revolve around their GPA. Parents and alumni join students in the gym for the ceremony, a visible sign of the value that West High sees in its community members. This level of reaching out is essential in keeping West strong and in giving students role models, who once walked the same halls they’re in now, to look up to.

The honors ceremony is a well rounded, all-encompassing and inclusive event that does not often get the praise it deserves. It’s truly inclusive, to celebrate everyone from freshman to senior, from the most athletic to the academically excellent. The honors ceremony is a fitting capstone to the school year without ever looming over students’ heads, and as such it should be applauded. So, as the gym fills and you prepare for an hour and 15 minutes of faculty members talking at a podium, remember the value behind it.