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Graduates flourished in arts school setting

Editor’s note: Today, The DAILY LEADER continues publication of valedictorian and salutatorian speeches from recent graduation ceremonies at local schools. Today’s address is from Mississippi School of the Arts Valedictorian Jawan Hopson.

     “Is it like ‘High School Musical?'” I don’t think so. “How about like the movie ‘Fame’?” No, not really. “Well, is it like that show on Fox, ‘Glee’?” Not exactly.

     So, how would you describe the Mississippi School of the Arts experience, especially to those of you who have no idea what this school is about?

     I can tell you that it’s not easily comparable to just any show or movie you might have seen. I mean, when you throw 130 incredibly talented kids, blessed with God-given abilities and intelligence, together, you get more than what’s expected. I guess you could even say we’re a peculiar high school in that we don’t indulge in the norm or convention, if you will.

     School starts at 7:45 a.m., so most of us get up at 7:44 to make sure that we’re well-dressed and well-prepared for the school day. And at 4:47 p.m., after nine hours of honing our crafts and enduring yet another day of Owens’ quizzes, we go to rehearsal. And after a few hours of that, we do our homework and wait patiently for the night-time snack call with our Wal-Mart bags handy to haul our Hot Chips and waters back to our room.

     Next thing you know, you’re knocked out on the floor with Serena in one hand and Macbeth in the other. And ready to do it all again the next day.

     That’s MSA in our eyes. And we enjoy every minute of it. Yes, we work hard, but don’t think we don’t have our share of fun. We definitely make time for that.

     I’ll give you a few examples. From all our dances in our makeshift club, Club Firebird (what some unimaginative people like to refer to as the cafeteria) to our special picnics on the lawn with food provided by our lovely cafeteria women. From the epic ninja battles on the patio to the late night games of Mafia and Signs with the masses. From the parody interviews of Whitney Houston and Rihanna to our MSA versions of “American Idol” and “America’s Next Top Model.” Where else do you see 17-18 year-olds, considered young adults, play hide-and-seek religiously almost every weekend? Our historic campus truly has some of the best hiding places!

     From our different connation of a library because of our awesome coffee houses to the recent 1st annual Poetry Slam. From the daily trips to Fox’s Pizza and Donut Palace to my favorite hat. From the time we learned all about the benefits of grapefruit to the deafening, yet hilarious intercom announcements. We’ve had some great times.

     It just goes to show you that as a student body, we come together. We support each other and love hard. Personally, I never got tired of singing ‘Happy Birthday’ every single day because I knew it would make someone’s day. But I can say I never went as far as those who thought it was OK to dance on the cafeteria tables in celebration.

     Do you guys remember how proud we were of our beloved fictional character, Shantishiba, when she finally got a job to support her children? Keep on keeping on, Shantishiba! Or the time we threw Jalen his own prom in the laundry room because he missed it when he was in New York competing. Or how when every time somebody tries to do (something) about our school on Facebook, we become an army. And Craig writes the supporting posts with all the facts and receipts needed. That same army has fought the legislature in past years when they try to take this place from us. This safe haven where our creativity thrives.

     The 2011-2012 school year proved itself be the most innovative school year this school has seen – the year of movers and shakers. Like all the cool clubs we made: the Eric Whitarce Appreciation Club to the 12 Step Program for getting over Light Saber Wars, Kittens, and Monty Python. We got senior parking! We got YouTube! The Governor’s School Boys got Val and Sal. And I think it’s finally safe to say that we’ve amassed the most scholarship offers in the history of MSA.

     Lots of “firsts” were made this year. We’ve all accomplished such great things, but apart from that we’ve done great things as a family. We’ve accepted each other for our differences. We’ve watched each other grow artistically and in maturity. We’ve laughed together. We’ve cried together. Seniors, we’ve gotten through another year at MSA … together. We did that. And I can confidently say that this is the greatest student body this school has seen.

     But if you just had to compare MSA to something, I guess it’s like Hogwarts. You take all these unique kids from their hometowns, bring them together, and watch the magic happen. We even have our own Albus Dumbledore – or should I say Alba Dumbledore with her beautiful baby girl (acknowledges Mrs. Hirsch). Our own Professor McGonagall (acknowledges Dr. Lebow). Our own Professor Trelawney (acknowledges Mrs. Tammy). Our own Professor Sprout (acknowledges Mrs. Elkins). And even our own Professor Snape (acknowledges Mr. Owens). I won’t speak on the different houses, even though we all know that the Vocals are Gryffindor.

     But with all of this, you can see that we’re a special school – one that I’m going to miss terribly. Seniors, sweet Jesus, we’re graduating! I have no doubt that you all will continue being successful in your future endeavors. Please, continue to inspire others as you all have inspired me, and share your gifts as you have so humbly and graciously with all of us. I love you all, and I thank you for being part of this experience.

     To the administration, teachers, staff of the Student Life Center, board members of the MSA Foundation, and any other dignitaries I failed to mention, on behalf of the class of 2012, I’d like to extend our appreciation. Thank you for all that you have done; it never went unnoticed. And because I know he’ll love it, I’d like to end my speech with a plug that found its way into every conversation I’ve ever had with our President, Mark Sills. Y.O.G.O. (You Only Graduate Once [from high school]). Thank you.

     Jawan Hopson, of Columbus, is the son of Shanda Bates.