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HHS welcomes 133 new graduates to alumni cohort

Harpeth High School (HHS) recognized the 133 graduates in its class of 2024 on the evening of Thursday, May 23 under the lights of their very own football field. 


This is one of the most accomplished senior classes HHS has seen in recent years, with nearly 65% of the students graduating with honors distinctions. 


The class of 2024 is the first at HHS to graduate with this honors distinction, HHS Principal Dr. Lee Rector said, “you have set the bar high for all the others. Well done.” 


The senior class had a total of 1,586 service hours, with 22 students totaling more than 40 hours each. To receive an honors distinction, the students had to have a GPA above 3.0 and two of the following: a 95% attendance rate; 30 hours of community service; or four years of an extracurricular activity. 


Twenty-one students graduated with honors distinction cum laude, with a GPA of 3.0-3.49; 24 were dubbed magna cum laude, maintaining a 3.5-3.79 GPA; and 22 students received the highest ranking honors, summa cum laude, with a 3.8-4.0 GPA. 


The graduating class of 133 students racked up more than $2.5 million in scholarships; received 448 hours of college credit and 42 hours of AP credit; signed 10 student athletes to colleges and saw 12 seniors go to the TSSAA state tournament through the volleyball, wrestling, track, and soccer teams.  


Eight seniors made a 30 or higher on their ACT and one senior completed her Certified Nurse Aide certification. Two seniors will be enlisting in the United States National Guard post-graduation. 


Rector also recognized three teachers who will be retiring this year with a combined 81 years of service to the Cheatham County School District: Guidance Secretary Terri Fisher; School Counselor Deborah Barger; and Theatre Teacher Anita DeFrancesca


“The lives you impacted are immeasurable, thank you,” Rector said. “In a profession that comes with tremendous stress and never enough recognition by those outside of education, you all gave your time, energy, love and tears to the students in this county. To each of you, Harpeth High School and Cheatham County owe you a huge thank you. And as a little token of our appreciation, we have a very special occurrence happening tonight.” 


American Idol contestant Emmy Russell – HHS class of 2017 – surprised the students, faculty, and guests at graduation on May 23. Fresh off her journey from the ABC production where she landed in the top 5, Russell made her first public appearance and sang Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” for the graduating seniors. 


“This school has literally made me who I am,” Russell said. “It stays with you.” Russell returned to Kingston Springs from her American Idol season in Hollywood on May 20. 


The ceremony included two other musical performances from seniors Addison Hunt, who sang “Never Grow Up” by Taylor Swift, and Polly Conley who performed “Somewhere Only We Know” by Keane with her father, Jon, on the guitar. 


Upon earning the highest honors distinction, Joseph McCoy was chosen by his peers out of the other 21 summa cum laude students to speak at the ceremony.


During his time at HHS, McCoy maintained a 3.95 GPA; was junior class president; was a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes; received the Red Cross award; earned his health science cord; received outstanding state’s person for Youth in Government; was selected by HHS staff to receive a teacher's choice award; is a member at Bellshire Assembly of God and actively attends Impact 615. 


In the fall, McCoy plans to take full advantage of Tennessee Promise while attending Nashville State and aspires to be in youth ministry.


“I just want to say, we did it,” McCoy said. “From the Neil Zerkles that gave all their blood, sweat and tears to the Cainan Thompsons that just wanted to get out of here, we finally did it.”


“Thirteen years – 13 years of laughter and tears; 13 years of wins and losses; 13 years of losing and making friends; 13 years of tests; and 13 years of projects and assignments that honestly we just tried our best to turn it on time. If you're anything like me, you're probably a little nervous or anxious, but still very excited about what's to come,” McCoy said. “I want to share with you one of my favorite Bible verses, and it's Matthew 6:34: ‘So don't worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's struggles is enough for today.’”


Senior class Vice President Triton Parker was presented with the Harpeth Way Award. The annual award is presented to an outstanding senior who demonstrates the true Harpeth spirit.


After the 133 seniors walked across the stage and received their diplomas, Rector concluded the ceremony, as he does each year, with a Tim McGraw quote.


He sent the class of 2023 off with the charge: “When the dreams you’re dreaming come to you, when the work you’ve put in is realized, let yourself feel the pride, but always stay humble and kind.”


With that, the class of 2023 left the field and entered adulthood to the tune of the Fleetwood Mac hit song, “Go Your Own Way.”


All photos by Kristyn Wilson



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