Graduates Rachel Mullenaux and Heather Owens were emotional prior to the ceremony as they hugged one another.
"I'm going to miss everyone," Owens said. "I am beyond nervous. Words cannot explain," Mullenaux added.
Zachary Borovicka, Eli Fleece, Tabitha Hutson, John Mihelic, Julie Miker, and Jamie Toothman were honored as the valedictorians of the class.
"I'm a little sad because one my friends was in a car accident and can't be here tonight," said Toothman.
"But I want to wish all my classmates good luck."
The seniors were robed in brown, white, and gold gowns as they gathered one last time as an official class. Principal Jerry Toth urged the class to thank their parents for helping them reach this special day.
The biggest challenge of the year for senior Julien Touvron was learning to speak English, he said. Touvron, a foreign exchange student from France, spoke only a little English before he came to West Virginia. His sister and mother traveled to West Virginia to watch him graduate.
"It's one of the greatest experiences of my life," he said. "Everyone has been so friendly and outgoing."
At the South Harrison High School commencement, conducted at 7 p.m. Friday in the school gymnasium, students were acutely aware the evening would mark a big change in their lives. While they joked about not having to get out of bed to attend class, exchanged hugs and took pictures of each other before the processional, many said they would miss close friends.
"In a way, it's sad. Part of me would rather stay here with my friends than go away and get a real job," said Chris Renyolds, who plans to work as a certified electrician. "But there's a positive side too--meeting new people, getting a real job and having a family."
Sareida Cooper also said the downside of graduation is separation from friends.
"But there are a lot of good things too," Cooper said. "The best thing is more freedom."
Michael Wilt emphasized the bright side of graduation.
"It's going to be a lot of fun," Wilt said. "Tonight is the last time we'll be in the same area and we'll have a great time."
Like many the 87 graduates, Wilt found humor in the occasion, too.
"I'll miss football. We play in the mud when it rains," he said.
Graduation also means profound changes for parents and relatives.
"The time just goes by so fast," said Bob Highland as he waited for his son Chris to take his part in the processional. "I can remember the first day I put him on the bus to go to kindergarten."
In his salutatorian address, Joshua Doak urged his fellow students to make the best of the changes that come with graduation.
"Our lives have changed and will never be the same," Doak said. "This evening, we change from high school students to young adults. We don't have a choice about change, but we do have a choice about how to react to it. Memories of our high school days will always be close to us."
Marlena Vassar and Melissa Johnson shared the honor of valedictorian. Also, Principal Jerry McKeen presented awards to South Harrison's top ten scholars.
Harman High School also had commencement ceremonies at 7 p.m. Friday evening in the school gymnasium.
Brittany Bolyard gave the valedictory address. She plans to attend West Virginia University in the fall and major in civil engineering.
Amanda Mininger and Matthew Sponaugle both earned the honor of salutatorian.
The community choir and the senior class chorus provided special music at the ceremony.
Staff writer Jennifer Biller can be reached at 626-1443 and staff writer Shawn Gainer can be reached at 626-1442.