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CLASS OF 2022: Watson Chapel graduation crowd caught in line

by I.C. Murrell | May 12, 2022 at 2:55 a.m.
A band member holds a little guy and keeps him entertained during Watson Chapel High School's graduation ceremony Tuesday, May 10, 2022. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)

This is the fifth of 14 entries in a series highlighting Jefferson County high school and college graduates.

Hundreds of Watson Chapel High School graduate supporters remained stuck in a long line about an hour into Tuesday night's ceremony at the Pine Bluff Convention Center and did not get to see their loved ones walk across the stage.

In a letter provided by a district parent, Watson Chapel schools Superintendent Andrew Curry said the center's "standard security protocols and the high number of attendees" resulted in a long wait.

"The District wanted all family and friends of our graduates to see their students walk across the stage and collect their diplomas," Curry wrote. "Because of these delays, that didn't happen for everyone, and we apologize."

Convention Center director Joseph McCorvey said "it was very obvious" those who were in the long line during the ceremony came late. McCorvey added school officials should have communicated with graduates and their family members to arrive at the center an hour before the 7 p.m. commencement began. All entrants were screened through metal detectors at the lobby.

"We've been doing the security piece for over a year now," McCorvey said. "We have to maintain a safe situation, particularly after [a recent homicide] happened in the Regional Park. We're trying to be proactive."

Meanwhile in the arena, valedictorian Emoni Williams and salutatorian Randi Kittler encouraged their 135 fellow classmates to build wonderful lives as they move on into adulthood.

Each year of school has been part of a puzzle the class of 2022 pieced together, Williams said.

"Now, it's time to put together a new puzzle -- the puzzle of our adult lives," she said. " We will be great. We will be successful. We will change the world. We will make a difference."

The Convention Center will host Southeast Arkansas College's graduation starting at 7 p.m. Friday and Pine Bluff High School's graduation starting at 7 p.m. May 20. McCorvey said metal detectors will continue to be used.

"No exceptions," he added.

Watson Chapel's graduation ceremony was recorded and will be available for viewing online Friday, Curry wrote. Those who would like to view the ceremony are asked to call the high school office at (870) 879-3230. Extra programs for those who didn't receive one may also be picked up at the office, Curry added.

  photo  The Watson Chapel class of 2022 included 137 graduates, led by valedictorian Emoni Williams, shown delivering her speech Tuesday, May 10, 2022. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)
  photo  Watson Chapel High School honor graduates listen intently to the speaker while sitting on the front row during graduation Tuesday, May 10, 2022. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)
  photo  Randi Kittler delivers the salutatory address to the Watson Chapel High School graduates on Tuesday, May 10, 2022. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)
  photo  Taryn Lagrone was announced as one of several scholarship winners from the Watson Chapel class of 2022. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)
  photo  From left, honor students Ethan Johnson, Denim Banks and Sharae Gipson applaud their classmates as they receive diplomas from Watson Chapel High School on Tuesday, May 10, 2022. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)
  photo  Emoni Williams makes the valedictory address to her Watson Chapel High School classmates during their graduation ceremony Tuesday, May 10, 2022, at the Pine Bluff Convention Center. A photo gallery from the ceremony is available in this issue. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)

  photo  Family and friends wait in a long line midway through the Watson Chapel High School graduation ceremony at the Pine Bluff Convention Center. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)

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