06/10/08 — Southern Wayne graduation

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Southern Wayne graduation

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on June 10, 2008 1:57 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- When Southern Wayne High School salutatorian Andy Moore told his classmates Monday that "this is no ordinary day," he was right.

For the 234 graduating members of the Class of 2008, it wasn't just another day. For the first time, it wasn't just the first weekday of summer vacation. It was the beginning of what many saw as the start to the rest of their lives.

"This means a lot to me," graduate Tonishia Edwards said. "It's my first step into the real world."

Gathering outside Mount Olive College's Kornegay Arena in the 90-plus degree heat, the students waited patiently, drinking cups of water and helping each other make last-minute adjustments to their caps and gowns -- even as they reminded themselves that the only thing that really mattered was the folder Principal Eddie Radford was going to be handing them within an hour's time.

"You're going to walk across the stage, who cares," Chantel Moore told Lindsay Smith as she helped her pin her stole to her gown and kept her classmate from worrying too much about the big step up to the stage.

The basketball arena reached standing room only, with hundreds of teachers, parents and other family members watching and cheering as Radford introduced the graduates, and Student Government Association President Shana Wynn told them to turn their tassels, just like "turning a page in a book."

"This is the proudest day of my life other than the day I gave birth to her," Amelia Carlock said about her daughter, Natashia.

It was a sentiment many parents seemed to be feeling.

"She's worked so hard. I'm so proud of her. She's my baby," Robin Odom said of Ashley Casey with tears in her eyes.

For senior Katrice Bowden, though, the hour-long ceremony was a quick ending to a day that had seemed to go by slowly.

"I was nervous," she said. "I just wanted to get it over with."

But, she admitted, looking back, "high school went by kind of fast."

Now she is headed to Wayne Community College where she plans to study cosmetology.

Other students also are headed off to college, some to Mount Olive College, some to N.C. Central University, some to Barton College and still others to any one of the multitude of schools dotting the state.

"(Graduation) means a lot to me," Kevin Flow said. "It means I'm done with high school, thank Jesus. It means I'm going to college (at Elizabeth City State)."

But graduation wasn't just about looking forward to the next step. It also was a chance to take a brief look back and thank parents, teachers, coaches and administrators for all their support, encouragement and help throughout the years.

"This is an end of an era," Moore said during his speech. "We now begin our great journey to the future."

And, he added, while that means many of the students standing together might not see each other again, he also noted that they still have "MySpace, Facebook and COPS (the television show)" with which to keep in touch.

Hopefully, though, if the graduates were paying attention to valedictorian, Fitch Carrere's address, they will be able to limit themselves to just the online networks.

Admitting that there is still a lot left for them to learn, Carrere urged his classmates to listen, to be of good character, to be gracious and show good judgment, to show proper reverence and respect, and to be humble.

Most important, though, he told the class to "smile ... surround (themselves) with friends ... (and) if you don't know something, Google it."