Over 1,000 walk across the stage, with a few interruptions
By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on May 30, 2004 9:17 AM
More than 1,100 high school students received diplomas this weekend during graduation exercises around the county. All six high schools in Wayne County public schools held ceremonies, as did Wayne Country Day School and neighboring Princeton High School.
Common themes abound on such an occasion. Messages of congratulations and encouragement to persevere and pursue dreams. Bittersweet realizations that an era has passed. And pride, much pride, for having accomplished milestones.
Threatening thunderstorms did not come to pass. Southern Wayne and Spring Creek high schools traditionally hold ceremonies indoors, and Goldsboro High decided mid-week to move its graduation to the gymnasium.
Capacity crowds at Goldsboro and Spring Creek resulted in a number of parents and other supporters being turned away at the door.
As the diploma presentation began at Goldsboro, pounding could be heard on one of the side doors from disgruntled people outside who were not allowed in.
Halfway during the presentation of diplomas at Eastern Wayne High School, Principal Morris Kornegay had to stop the ceremonies to ask the police to remove some of those attending, because they became too rowdy and were making too much noise. It got so loud that sometimes the names of those being called could not be heard.
And an adult at the Spring Creek graduation was arrested and taken to jail after being refused entry after ceremonies began (see page 15A).
But those incidents didn't dampen the overall spirit of the evening, which was one of celebration as Wayne County's graduates move toward the future.
Here is a rundown of the public school graduation ceremonies held Friday and Saturday and the three private high school graduations:
The class song for Goldsboro High School's latest graduates said it all.
During Friday night's program in the gymnasium, the 136 graduates stood in unison and sang "The Class of 2G4."
"Four years have passed us by," they sang. "It's time for us to part. We'll go our separate ways, but keep memories in our hearts.
"We must mature and grow, throughout the years to come. So good-bye ... good-bye."
Principal Patricia Burden acknowledged the bittersweet occasion.
"As much as we appreciate your sadness, we know that there's joy that you have at this moment in your lives," she said.
"We share that joy with you because the teachers, the staff and the administrators have worked diligently over a four-year period to make sure that we could say to you that you have met the requirements for graduation."
School board member Thelma Smith and board Chairman Pete Gurley helped hand out diplomas.
Salutatorian Amber Jacobs welcomed the capacity crowd to the ceremonies, pausing to thank the audience for its love and support throughout the years that led to the moment.
"Thank you for coming to see the fulfillment of dreams and the beginning of a new era in our lives," she said.
Trevor Handberry, senior class president, introduced Valedictorian Shannon Jones. He described her as an inspiration and said she had "surpassed the greatest expectations and risen to the top of the class."
Shannon thanked God, her mother and her family for supporting her along the way and congratulated the graduates for a job well done.
She said that graduation marked the day "that we finally say farewell to friends, teachers and other administrators who have all made our stay at Goldsboro High School worthwhile.
"It is a special day which will forever remind us that a focused mind and hard work will pay off in the end."
She said that of all the lessons she had learned while in high school, the one she wanted to challenge her classmates to embrace is perseverance.
"It is the one quality which will keep you moving down the path to your success," she said. "It will give you the extra push needed to never give up on yourself or your dreams."
Rosewood High School had 109 seniors graduate on the football field Friday night.
Many of them have been together since kindergarten, said Jennifer Ann Routa, the salutatorian, during her speech. She said she and her classmates have learned to balance fun and work.
"We have survived our youth with loyalty and laughter," she said. "... We are off to soar alone, strengthened by the sacred values we learned."
"The class of 2004 has been the epitome of individuality," said Amanda Thompson, the valedictorian, during her speech. "For 13 years, since the first day in kindergarten, we have all tried our best to stand out and be our own person," she said. "We all wanted to be unique and to be remembered as being just that."
But there were times, she said, when fads would come along. She reminded the girls of the teased bangs, the stirrup pants, the multicolor of "jelly shoes" in summer. She reminded the boys of the Christmas when everybody got a Nintendo Gameboy and the year everyone got a Digimon.
"And we all probably had at least one pair of L.A. Gear shoes that lit up when we walked. ... So I suppose it is fitting that we end our childhood here, now, together, wearing matching outfits."
She encouraged her classmates to set goals, take risks and expect the unexpected. "Live life to the fullest," she said, "take every opportunity, and most importantly, have fun!"
The crowd at Spring Creek High on Friday had been sitting on its hands too long.
As the last of 99 graduates walked off the stage in the gym and took her seat, Assistant Principal Cynthia Reynolds announced simply, quietly, "The Class of 2004."
Aware that they finally could applaud, the proud parents, family and friends quickly rose and gave the students a standing ovation. The teens then joined in and the noise level started rising higher and higher.
Principal Stephan Clingan had to quell the crowd for a few more minutes. "We're not quite official yet. We're almost there. We're almost there," he said.
The ceremony, the second in Spring Creek High's history, lasted less than an hour. School board members George Moye and Thelma Smith and Associate Superintendent Sandra McCullen were special guests.
Salutatorian Marsha McCoy urged the graduates to "get I-T together." The "I" stands for integrity and "T" for temperance, both of which are needed to make good decisions, she said.
"A wise woman once said that every behavior is a seed, whether it's a flower or a weed, and every seed brings a bigger harvest," she said. "Let's continue to sow good seeds by doing what's right."
Valedictorian Graham Wilson asked his fellow grads to "always look for the positive in every situation." While every high school moment wasn't a happy one, he will always cherish the relationships, knowledge, friendships and memories formed during his years at Spring Creek High, he said.
Dominica Santoro and Justin Smith sang the senior class' song, "I Hope You Dance." The Spring Creek Show Choir sang "The Wind Beneath My Wings."
Charles B. Aycock
The 43rd graduating class of Charles B. Aycock High School made its way onto the school's athletic field Friday night as family members tried to get a glimpse of their graduate in a sea of blue and silver.
"You truly are a very talented young group of men and women," said Randy Bledsoe, principal. He welcomed the 251 graduates and thanked the parents for another great year.
The commencement address was given by Valedictorian Jennifer Williamson. She said the students are celebrating one of the most important milestones in their lives.
"The diploma you are about to receive signifies that you have the knowledge and education you need to do well in the real world," said she said.
"Wherever you will be in the coming months and years, remember all the little steps you have taken to get you where you are."
She stressed the importance of perseverance in difficult times and continuing to take steps to reach goals.
"The most important thing to remember is how you got up off the ground and tried again," she said. "This same perseverance that has gotten you through high school will carry you through the rest of your life as well."
The class salutatorian, Edye Strickland, said that faith and optimism will take the students a long way and that it is important to keep hope even through uncertain times. She also looked back on the years at Charles B. Aycock.
"We have made friends at Charles B. Aycock that will last a lifetime," she added.
Members of the school's advisory council assisted in handing out the diplomas. As the names were called, the silence broke and an occasional cheer busted out through the crowd.
Bobby Benson, senior class president, lead the turning of the tassels and when it was official, the graduates cheered and threw their caps in the air. The line of graduates made their way off the field while the Charles B. Aycock Symphonic Band played the "Ceremonial March."
Although dark clouds threatened to dampen the skies, they could not dampen the spirits of 254 Eastern Wayne High School graduates and their families and friends during graduation ceremonies Friday night.
Principal Morris Kornegay noted that in his nine years at the school, this was the largest crowd he'd ever seen.
Danielle Bliss, valedictorian, thanked everyone, from parents to teachers to classmates, for getting the graduates where they are today. "Our parents and family have provided some of the strongest and most important relationships we will ever have," she said. "They don't judge; they only love unconditionally, and I think many of us here have never taken time to truly appreciate this."
Ms. Bliss told her fellow graduates that "we sit here tonight ready to enter into unfamiliar territory. We are sure to face hard times, but we have been taught well. It's time to use everything Eastern Wayne, our parents and our friends have shown us over the past 18 years to succeed, achieve and conquer. We are the leaders of tomorrow and the lessons of today have prepared us for this responsibility."
Salutatorian Michelle Carmon urged the graduates that "as you walk past your classmates, think of the lessons you have learned, the moments you have shared and the memories you will keep forever. I do hope over the course of your lifetime, you are reminded of these things and strive to achieve greatness in all that you do."
She spoke about "fallen Warriors," those who had a great affect on their lives, but who are not here today. "The legacies of these fallen Warriors live on in each and every one of us through our memories and the way they shaped our lives."
Valedictorian Sterling Tadlock offered one of the more unusual graduation speeches Saturday, comparing the four years that his class spent at Southern Wayne High School with the meteoric rise of young singer Britney Spears, almost during the same time period.
Tadlock even held up a large poster of the singer, evoking laughter from the overflow crowd in College Hall at Mount Olive College. He said she was an "intense source of inspiration." Then he placed the poster in front of the podium.
Tadlock, who is headed to Duke University as a pre-med student, said his classmates as freshmen had to adapt to new surroundings, just as they will after graduation. As sophomores, he said, they became more independent and now will have to develop their own styles and personalities.
"We should be proud and honored to have achieved something many others in the world cannot say," Tadlock said. "And we should feel a great deal of fellowship and camaraderie in that we did this together, as one body, as one unit, as one class."
Salutatorian Erica Kelley also recalled her four years at Southern Wayne, saying they have been "a stepping stone in our journey from adolescence to adulthood."
But she said that with the many firsts in school came new responsibilities, including balancing new freedoms with academics.
Ms. Kelley, who is headed to the University of North Carolina to major in business, compared the diverse background of her class to the many varieties in a candy store. Then she said the teachers were extremely sweet and challenging.
In conclusion, she challenged her classmates, saying, "The potential that each of you hold is infinite and it is up to you to discover it."
Principal Eugene Byrd and Assistant Principal Jacqueline Green handed out diplomas to about 210 seniors with help from chief marshals Michael Moore and Betsy Overman.
Senior class President Debony Jones, Vice President Brandy Jones and Secretary Anna Edwards also spoke briefly.
Wayne Country Day
Fourteen seniors graduated from Wayne Country Day School during ceremonies at the school on Friday night.
The graduates selected Barbara Ann Vinson, an English teacher at the school for 30 years and co-adviser of the senior class, to be featured speaker for the event. Valedictorian this year was Carolyn Ziemer. Hannah Jernigan was the salutatorian.
Faith Christian Academy
Faith Christian Academy held graduation ceremonies on May 21.
The school had 15 students walk across the stage to receive diplomas. The Rev. Dann Patrick, pastor of Faith Free Will Baptist Church, spoke.
Allison Rebecca Scharadin was the valedictorian, and Carri Marie Cordell and Jennifer Beth Haas were co-salutatorians.
Wayne Christian School
A dozen students graduated from Wayne Christian School on May 21.
John Rasey, professor at Piedmont Baptist College in Winston-Salem, gave the commencement address.
Leah Horton and Jessica Chong were co-valedictorians. Stephanie Joyner was the salutatorian.
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