WARE SHOALS — “Once a Hornet, always a Hornet.”

Alan Pedraza’s words are what nearly 60 students have lived with for more than the past four years. They ended their high school career with those words Saturday at Ware Shoals High School commencement ceremony.

Much of the town’s population crowded into the football stadium to see seniors receive their diplomas.

“I’m just happy to be graduating,” Tiera Turman said before the ceremony. She finished her career in three years and is ready to attend Charleston Southern University on a full scholarship where she will major in nursing.

Her grandparents Larry and Katherine Jefferson, are proud of Tiera’s accomplishments. Catherine noted that Tiera had attended classes at Lander University in addition to her high school studies.

“She is determined,” Larry said when asked how their granddaughter managed such a schedule. “Everybody has the skills and abilities God gave them.”

“I told her to stay focused,” Catherine said. “The young men can come later.”

Angela Norwood was on hand to watch her grandson, Cody Cape, receive his diploma.

“It makes you happy and cry at the same time,” she said. “It makes me feel like I’m old with a grandson graduating. It’s like they are ready to fly from the nest.”

She expressed pride for all the graduates, especially as they had to deal with the pandemic.

Valedictorian Adriana Uldrick noted that she has known people since kindergarten and they are they graduating, going to college or starting families.

It’s been a fun ride, Pedraza said in his remarks. Four years ago, he admitted he thought this day would never come. “School wasn’t always easy, but it was worth it.”

Being a Hornet apparently means looking out for each other, as evidenced by a graduate who lost a heel while walking to receive her diploma. The next senior in line for a diploma picked up the heel. After the ceremony, the girl told her relatives, after losing the heel, all she could do was carry on.

Soon-to-be graduates converged in the school’s auditorium and took stock of their situation. Some fussed with their hair and reapplied their make-up and one student dressed in a short-sleeved shirt looked at other students and asked “Is it me or do I feel underdressed?”

He wasn’t the only student with fashion concerns. Salutatorian Pedraza got help from Gina Dunn with his bow tie. While wrestling with the tie, she exclaimed “Your neck has gotten bigger since the last time we did this.”

After tossing his cap into the air, one graduate kept saying “13 years!” as friends and relatives embraced.

Emma Hodge posed for several photos with families. Some photos featured a giant banner featuring her as a young girl which was made by her church’s youth pastor. Hodge intends to attend Southern Wesleyan University and major in music education.

She offered thanks to the schools teachers and staff, including outgoing Principal Paul Anderson.

“We couldn’t have done it without them,” Hodge said.

Contact staff writer Robert Jordan at 864-943-5650.