05/29/05 — Tears, hugs and memories mark day as seniors claim diplomas

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Tears, hugs and memories mark day as seniors claim diplomas

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 29, 2005 2:02 AM

The dictionary defines commencement as simply "to start." On Friday and Saturday, more than 1,100 high school seniors across Wayne County crossed a threshold and began their journeys into adulthood.

The county graduation ceremonies began last weekend with Faith Christian Academy, culminating with five public school graduations and two private school graduations Friday evening and one on Saturday morning. North Duplin High graduates received their diplomas on Friday morning.


At Charles B. Aycock High, the stands at the football field were packed and the fences lined with family and friends of 243 graduates-to-be on Friday.

Salutatorian Gregory Tipton gave the devotional and thanked God for the gift of "thought, the ability to formulate ideas. ... Consciousness will always invigorate the soul."

He encouraged his fellow graduates to "live lives of dignity, purity and happiness."

In her commencement address, valedictorian Anem Waheed said the seniors' 13 years of public education were only a preparation for what comes next.

"At this point in our lives, we have only floated on the water," she said. "What I mean is, we've been exposed to the surface of each subject. ...

"Well, you won't use this stuff unless you pursue what you're interested in and learn as much as possible about your favorite topics. The way to do this is to quit floating on top of the swimming pool and dive in as deep as you can."

She asked her fellow students to show "dignity and honor" in a changing world. She pointed out that they had "an American-Pakistani Muslim girl" giving their commencement address.

"There is no avoiding it -- we will deal with different types of people and it will be our choice to learn from the opportunity," she said.

She compared people to a bag of M&Ms.

"We all may appear to look different with various skin colors and beliefs, but inside we're all made of the same thing -- chocolate!" she said to laughter. "Well, maybe not chocolate ... but we all surely have a soul, a heart and the determination to make our lives better.

"America has been at war through most of our high school careers, but don't forget that the people on the other side of the world, just like your neighbors, are people with families, dreams and aspirations."

Principal Randy Bledsoe noted that this year's seniors had earned scholarships totaling nearly $1.9 million.


On a balmy evening, a gentle wind carried the hopes and dreams of 288 Eastern Wayne High School seniors into the future.

Following the processional out onto the football field, principal J. Morris Kornegay praised the graduating class saying that it had been "an extra, extra special part of a four-year gain at Eastern Wayne."

Valedictorian Laura Ivey praised the teachers who helped shape her life. But she also noted the contributions of friends, and even enemies, who helped make here and her classmates the people they are today.

"Even though we may not always realize the extent of their presence, our lives reflect their every mark upon our personas," she said.

She said that as graduates accepted their diplomas, they were entering a new world.

"Now is the time to decide if the people we are now are the people we want to be for the rest of our lives. This is our decision to make. Life isn't something that happens to us; it's the choices we make that shape our lives."

Salutatorian Brittney Taylor said graduates should never forget their years at Eastern Wayne, but prepare themselves to make new memories.

"If happiness really does lie in all of the memories made, then think of all the reasons we have to be thankful for the past four years. As we prepare to move on, it is certain that we will make new memories that will be equally as lasting and powerful."

She urged fellow classmates to always remember where they came from -- and where they are going.

"Accept your mistakes, learn from them and move on," she said. "Don't dwell on the past. Remember it, but know that God has an amazing plan for your future."

She concluded by quoting a line from a Tim McGraw song. "We all take different paths in life, but no matter where we go, we take a little of each other, everywhere."



At Goldsboro High School, a little more than 100 seniors clad in blue and gold strode across the platform to accept their diplomas, along with the applause of family and friends.

Valedictorian Ashelyn James thanked her classmates for the many acts of kindness they had exhibited over the years.

"I was nervous, scared and lost, but you welcomed me with open arms."

She credited her classmates with helping her reach out and never accepting "no" for an answer. She said they had helped her "see the world through new eyes and an open heart."

James also credited her classmates with giving her more faith in herself and in others.

"This class helped me find me," she said. "My precious class of 2005, the world has been waiting for us for a very long time."

Graduates were the recipients of more than $1.8 million worth of scholarships.



Salutatorian Brandon Hietpas told fellow graduates that speaking before them was the most difficult assignment he had ever received. But faith would carry him through, he said, just as faith had helped him through four years of study.

"Faith is a powerful tool and the most important one you need to start a long, difficult journey," he said.

He said there were three tools that had helped pave the way for him that will make the rest of his life more enjoyable: perseverance, hard work and dedication.

"If the 2005 graduates of Rosewood head into the world with the essential traits that have been taught to us by Rosewood's amazing teachers and coaches, we will be in good shape," Hietpas said.

Valedictorian Alex Sotirios Benton said he didn't enjoy saying good-bye and promised that his speech would not exceed a minute and a half. He told his fellow graduates that the world that was opening up before them would demand more than ever from them.

"After tonight, our parents and teachers will not be responsible for us any more," Benton said. "After tonight, we will be the ones who will decide our future, we will be in control of every decision we make.
"I want us all to be proud of the great responsibilities we have waiting for us because we have all worked hard to be worthy of them."



At Southern Wayne, where about 220 seniors received their diplomas, salutatorian Betsy Overman sang part of her speech and valedictorian Michael Moore donned a Disney character cap before addressing the crowd.

But the unconventional deliveries did nothing to detract from the seriousness of the moment.

"Think of me when we say good-bye, and if you ever find a moment, spare it for me," Overman sang. "There will never be a day that I don't think of you ... Think of me fondly when you say good-bye."

Moore began by referring to a Beatles song.

"The song is 'The End' and there's a line that love you take is equal to the love you make," he said.

Moore said that his was the MTV generation, full of "bling-bling" and focused on what the "world gives us."

"But it's about time we start reaching out, instead of in," he said.

He said that the character of Ebeneezer Scrooge in the Charles Dickens classic, "A Christmas Carol," was a perfect example of what happens to a person obsessed with self.

"If we constantly choose to shut out the world," he said, "we'll be as cold as Scrooge."

Redemption, he said, was not found as easily in the real world as in the story of Scrooge.

Another misconception many people hold, Moore said, is that if they are not the cause of pain to someone else, their life can be judged a success.

So as long as they aren't "Darth Vader going over to the dark side," people believe they are all right, he said. But that isn't true, he said, because it's always easy to "not do" a lot of things.

Moore said that the word "do" was the key word in the Golden Rule, which says you should "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

"You must decide what you want your legacy to be, sacrifice who we are to light up a world plagued by darkness," he said. "So the love you take is equal to the love you make."



At Mount Olive College on Saturday morning, Spring Creek High graduates listened as valedictorian Kelly Jones read a Bible passage from Romans, in which Paul spoke of the importance of conforming and transforming.

"After 13 years in school, we should be prepared to do these two things," she said. "We should be prepared to change our way of thinking. ... prepared to have our minds transformed."

Salutatorian Kelly Murphy also challenged her classmates to live an examined life.

"Now, there's just one test for us to take," she said, "to examine, really examine our lives."

One test, she said, with three questions.

"If you get to where you're going, where will you be?" she asked. "If you find what you're seeking, what will you have? ... Do you have what you need to get what you want?"

The senior gift to the school, presented by class treasurer Ricky Galloway, was a marquee for the front of the school to feature announcements and events.

Principal Steve Clingan's final message to the 117 graduates prompted a standing ovation.

"By the authority given to me by Wayne County Public Schools, as principal of Spring Creek High School, I now declare the class of 2005 officially graduates," he said, as amidst cheers and a sea of graduation caps tossed into the air.


Eighteen students graduated Friday night from Wayne Christian School. Featured speakers during the commencement exercises were the Rev. Brian Beverly, as well as valedictorian Melissa Sheldon and co-salutatorians Leslie Anderson and Jeremy Crouthamel, who reflected on some of the students' fonder memories.

"From Spirit Week and homecoming, to junior-senior and our senior trip, we have grown closer and laughed harder than anyone could ever have imagined," he said.

"... But never forget, the same God who made you, made the world, and no matter how big we think our problems will be, God is much bigger."


Ten graduates received diplomas from Faith Christian Academy during ceremonies held May 20. The Rev. Dann Patrick spoke, along with valedictorian Stephen Ray Sloan.

Salutatorian Stephanie Dawne Smith expressed appreciation to those who faithfully served the school and its students, then told the parents in the audience how grateful the graduates were.

"Because of your sacrifices to send us to a Christian school, we are better people," she said. "We have been trained to love and respect God's word as well as obey His leading in our lives."



Graduation for 18 students at Wayne Country Day School took place in the school's gymnasium on Friday night.

Program speakers included Amanda Knutson, valedictorian, and Diane Strickland, a parent. This year's co-salutatorians, Brandy Phipps and Laura Ziemer, were also recognized.