Several gathered in the main sanctuary of Hope Presbyterian Church May 20 for the 104th Millington Central High School Commencement.
Some were already taking selfies to post on Instagram or send to Facebook. Twitter was buzzing about the MCHS graduation even before a single Class of 2014 graduate stepped foot into the church.
Among the recognitions and speeches from the stage that night featuring Senior Class President Nick Harris and Valedictorian Lauren Lester, it was the words of Salutatorian Greg Hairston that reminded the audience to embrace human interaction.
One MCHS graduate among the hundreds understood Hairston’s message fully. Earlier in the month senior Ariel Trice and her sister freshman Jessica got a surprise visit from their father Navy Chief Petty Officer Nate Trice.
“My wife, Brandi initially had mentioned it to Mr. (Mark) Neal and he was very supportive of it,” Nate recalled. “She orchestrated the whole thing when she spoke with Ms. (Beth) Hale. The entire staff made it happen.
“Ms. Hale was with the senior class in the auditorium conducting business; however she ensured it went off in a classy fashion.” he added. “ Dr. (Xavier) Wynn also played a crucial role with our youngest as he had informed her he needed to “speak with her” concerning something. Not sure exactly what.”
Nate greeted Jessica first in one of the offices of the school sending his baby girl into shock. A huge hug was all she could do when she saw her father.
Later Nate made his way to the Senior Day activities in the school’s auditorium to see Ariel. She was brought to the stage in the middle of all the festivities and moments later she’s holding her dad with tears following down her face.
“I was very surprised when I saw him,” Ariel recalled. “I knew he was coming home, but didn’t know he was coming home earlier than expected.
“It felt really good to hug him and just be in his arms,” she continued. “It has been six months since I saw him last. My heart sunk down to my stomach. It was just really good to feel him hug me again.”
Ariel knew then her father would be able to attend the graduation of his first born.
“I was supposed to deploy overseas upon report however due to budget cuts and sequestration, it was canceled,” Nate noted. “ I have completed six other deployments during my 21 year career so far which most have been on the west coast.”
After fulfilling his duties to his country, Nate was elated to serve in the role as proud father watching Ariel walk across the stage.
“To see Ariel’s graduation was the culmination of all of her hard work paying off,” he said. “Being a military family (especially in the Navy), we move around every 3 to 4 years. Brandi and I sometimes feel my career may have hindered her learning ability.
“She has developed into a very intelligent young woman,” Nate continued. “I constantly tell her that this (high school) only lays the foundation. Now she will enter the real world where nobody will care about whether she succeeds or not. We know she will be just fine in whatever she does in life.”
After a high school career of playing volleyball and softball, Ariel achieved a solid grade-point average and wants to pursue nursing.
“My feelings were extreme excitement and also nervous because I wanted him to see how far I’ve come along,” Ariel said. “And I just wanted him to see one of the biggest moments in my life. I am just so very glad he was able to see me graduate.
“It meant a lot to have everyone there just to see my good looking family,” she added. “Just to see all of them standing while I walked in was just the best feeling ever. My heart melted. It was a bittersweet moment.”
Several hearts melted that night in the parking lot of Hope Presbyterian when every graduate became the center of attention with their families.
For a moment, cell phones were only being used to take pictures to capture the precious moments of each newly declared MCHS alum with his or her loved one.
Ariel said by the end of the night all the graduates felt what the words of Hairston really meant.
“Because when you relay a message to someone through social media, the message could get lost,” she concluded. “Meaning they don’t get emotion behind it like they would by being face to face with someone. It is nice that I get to communicate with my dad through social media but nothing beats seeing him in person.”
In Nate’s Words
I was attached to Navy Personnel Command (NPC) here onboard Naval Support Activity Mid-South from December 2009 and officially transferred December 2, 2013. I reported to my command (Carrier Air Wing TWO, CVW-2) which is located on Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif., January 13, 2014. My command is assigned to the aircraft carrier USS RONALD REAGAN (CVN-76) in San Diego, Calif. I will be there for a little under three years which I will retire September 2016.
We surprised Jessica first. Brandi and I arrived at the school via the Freshman Academy entrance and proceeded to the office and asked for Dr. Wynn. He contacted Ms. Hale via the radio and he instructed us to go inside his office. He went to Jessica’s class and as he was walking her down and around to the back entrance of his office, I was hiding behind the door. My wife had her camera phone ready and positioned to get Jessica’s facial expression. Jess (as we call her) had NO CLUE! As she entered his office, she clasped her hands over her mouth as I came around and she saw me. Jessica was very emotional! We embraced and hugged for awhile…very emotional myself during it. AWESOME FEELING!!
As for Ariel, she was in the auditorium attending Senior Class functions. Brandi, Jessica, and I had been escorted to the backstage of the auditorium by staff members. According to Brandi and I heard it as well, Ms. Hale had asked Ariel what my name was and if I was there. Ariel responded with my first name and said no; that I was not local. With me behind the closed curtain on stage, she said my name which was the guys cue behind stage to open the curtains and there I was to surprise Ariel. We embraced on stage with her fellow classmates witnessing every moment. It was VERY special to have Ariel in the spot light! She deserves it with how hard she has worked to get to this point in her life. She definitely deserves her “15 minutes of fame”.