‘Stay curious’ Smithfield High valedictorian tells 2024 graduates

Published 5:31 pm Monday, June 17, 2024

Mallory Johnson, salutatorian of Smithfield High School’s class of 2024, finds inspiration in a song released decades before she was born.

“Slow down, you’re doing fine; you can’t be everything you want to be before your time,” she told her 298 fellow graduates at Smithfield High’s June 14 graduation ceremony at Liberty Live Church in Hampton, quoting the lyrics to Billy Joel’s 1977 hit “Vienna.”

“As we are adults now, I know that a sudden pressure has been placed on our shoulders to figure out what our future entails,” Johnson said. “However, that does not mean that the steps along the way are not as important every success every failure every time you simply don’t know what to do these all contribute to the individual that you are and will be.”

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Seth Thomas, the school’s valedictorian, urged his classmates to “stay curious” and highlighted the school’s career and technical education or CTE and Governor’s School programs.

“Some of you guys might be able to get jobs, well-paying jobs better than most of us will get in our lives, right out of high school,” Thomas said to Smithfield’s CTE students, while those admitted to either the Governor’s School for the Arts or Governor’s School for Science and Technology “basically went through a year or two of college.”

Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors Chairman Joel Acree and School Board Chairman Jason Maresh each urged the graduates to take ownership of their choices.

“On the board of supervisors I’m constantly reminded that the choices we make affect us, our neighbors, our families, friends and the future,” Acree said.

“Now that you are 18-year-old legal adults you and you alone are responsible for your own actions,” Maresh said. “Life is full of a series of decisions and consequences. Everything you do, every decision you make, every opportunity you take advantage of, every opportunity you let pass you by, will produce some sort of a consequence, some good and some bad. Gone are the days when your parents are legally bound to assume responsibility for your actions. Nothing is free and no one owes you anything. If you want it, figure out how to go get it.”