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WATCH: HSSD unknowingly shares stage with violence on graduation night

by Brandon Smith | May 14, 2022 at 4:05 a.m.
Hot Springs police SWAT team members check the Hot Springs Convention Center Thursday night following a shooting outside the building, where the Hot Springs World Class High School graduation was ending. - Photo by Andrew Mobley of The Sentinel-Record

Hot Springs World Class High School had no idea how suddenly its focus would shift on Thursday night after completing its 2022 graduation ceremony.

While most people had already left the Hot Springs Convention Center, where the commencement took place, gunfire just outside the building left one person dead and several injured, with the alleged gunman, wounded by police, fleeing the scene.

School officials say the incident never involved anyone from the school, nor was any part of it inside the center.

The school's valedictorian, Marlissa "Marly" Archie, addressed the strange night in her writings the next morning, which she shared with The Sentinel-Record.

"Last night I addressed my graduating class as valedictorian," she wrote. "I recounted our precious memories behind the walls of Hot Springs World Class High School. I celebrated a class full of diversified, extraordinary, empowered, and world-class stories. I encouraged and hoped for each and every one in that arena to move forward with positivity and promise in pursuit of their continued stories.

"I turned my tassel and my cap soared in the air, surrounded by the beautiful individuals who made my time at high school something I will never forget. Last night should've solely been a phenomenal evening in commemoration of the grit, hard work, and talent that is represented by the Hot Springs World Class High School graduates of 2022. However, our gowns were made to share the stage with guns. A night of fulfillment ended in a night of fear. An experience that should never happen to anyone at any time or any place, sadly struck a part of this community last night."

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She said she believed the school's "black and gold power" shining through that night is where the story should be.

"We should continue to stand loud and proud about taking those steps across the stage as a Hot Springs High graduate. We should rejoice over the feeling of completing one of the hardest journeys surrounded by people who are inspired and full of love for us," she wrote. "We should not let the poor actions of someone else dim or take away from the incredible, promising stories that were filled in that arena. We should use what happened last night to not strip us of our hope and joy over our remarkable accomplishment and optimistic future, but rather to fuel and ignite us to shape our stories to create a future in which WE make change for the better."

The unexpected turn of events that night, she said, should be a "tremendous call" to stop the violence.

"To promote, push, and enact gun control," she said. "To incite and be the change. To reflect on this moment, through the pain, with understanding at what such an important moment symbolized and how we will use that diploma we so valiantly fought for to conquer and write our next story.

"If you can take away anything from last night, take the truth that the Hot Springs World Class High School class of 2022 is a community of change-makers, and champions. We will not let this night be tarnished. We will remember it for what it truly was and that is the culmination of our high school years from a school that was joy-filled, prideful, and empowered from our presence," she wrote.

"We will rise, as the Trojans do, with the guiding torch to lead and pass on our bright trail for those behind us."

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