The Class of 2015

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he auditorium was nearly empty at Walton Academy’s graduation. It took place in DeFuniak Springs, Florida, this past weekend.

Not long ago, I’d never even heard of this county school before. It’s not a traditional high school. Many of the students hail from Paxton, or Mossy Head. They come from hardworking families, with no means.

The 2015 class was tiny, not enough graduates to form a baseball team. Their ceremony was casual. If you showed up in anything more than a T-shirt, you found yourself overdressed.

Take me, for instance: I was overdressed.

I noticed the graduates weren’t taking selfies. A teacher told me it’s because most of them don’t have cellphones. She said they didn’t take senior trips, attend proms, or apply to colleges either. They’re too busy with full-time jobs, and newborns.

They’re poor.

The teacher went on to say she keeps food in her classroom since the kids don’t have enough to eat at home. Charities dole out bags of groceries sometimes. “But you gotta get there early,” one student says. “All the bags get snatched quick.”

These are Walton county’s rejects. They know it too. Most of them don’t make it past eighth grade.

But these graduates did.

They were a handsome lot. Under-confident children wearing gowns. The students threw their caps in the air. The thin crowd rose to its feet. The man next to me, still in dirty work clothes, clapped so hard he nearly broke his wrist.

“That’s my son,” he said.

Yes it was.

It certainly was