It was a day to remember, but more importantly, a chance to make a difference.
Students, staff and family members gathered around the flagpole in front of Thomson High School on Tuesday, April 22, to dedicate a memorial bench and celebrate the life of high school students who died tragically in accidents the last few years.
"Every minute is a gift. Every hour is a memory. Every day is a chance to change someone's life as we dedicate this bench to students who valued life so much," Senior Kalyn Kitchings said during the ceremony.
The bench will serve as a memorial to Amber Hinton, Chrystal Williams, Ciera Burnett, Steven Wilson and Cheryl Helmly.
"They have enriched our lives and we shall never forget their smiling faces," Kalyn said.
A brief speech was given on behalf of each deceased student. Robin Dudley spoke for Amber, Bianca Jenkins and Jessica Rodewolt spoke for Chrystal, Patricia James for Ciera, Jessie Morlan for Steven and Kelly Wilson for Cheryl. Crystal Reese read a poem that is printed in the students' memory in the school's annual.
The ceremony also included music by the Thomson High Jazz Band and a song by Andrea Culpepper and Jessica Harris.
Teacher Kelly Flanders said the students in the Beta club, HOSA club, Spanish club, Bulldog Brigade and drama club came up with the idea of the bench, organized and participated in the ceremony.
In spite of the windy day, a candelabra ceremony during the dedication served as a celebration of the lives of the students. Crystal Reese, Christine Usry, Carmen Anderson, Kalyn Kitchings and Jerrica Bell each lit a candle for their friends.
"I challenge each of you to leave here a better person," Kalyn said. "Allow this place of meditation to become a daily reminder that we must live life to the fullest."