06/12/09 — First to turn tassels

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First to turn tassels

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on June 12, 2009 1:46 PM

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Southern Wayne Valedictorian Amber Bowden challenges her fellow graduates to follow their dreams in her speech.

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Southern Wayne graduate Shane Berger turns his tassel with 223 other graduates Thursday at their graduation on the Mount Olive College campus.

DUDLEY -- So long, and thanks for all the cookies.

Southern Wayne High School 2009 valedictorian Amber Bowden knows what she and her classmates will miss the most about their school years.

"While we are all more than glad to be leaving the halls of Southern Wayne, there will be one thing we will most certainly miss, and that is the chocolate chip and sugar cookies served in the cafeteria," Miss Bowden said during the graduation address. "Oh, and probably the biscuits, too."

The 224 students of the SWHS Class of 2009 laughed knowingly, but Miss Bowden had other, more serious points to make during her speech at the Thursday night graduation ceremony, held in the Mount Olive College Kornegay Arena.

"When we look back on our lives, what kind of people do we want to say that we were? The slacker or the hard worker? The two-faced person or the man with good character? The one who justifies wrongdoings to others based on hatred, or the one who loves the neighbor as thyself? The leader or the follower?" she asked her classmates.

Salutatorian April Tucker told the capped-and-gowned crowd to appreciate the lessons learned during the students' years at Southern Wayne.

"Tonight, my message to you is to cherish the last few moments and the close relationships that you have with your high school friends and your family, because soon, everything is going to change," Miss Tucker said. "Store all the little lessons you've learned, the memories you've made and the laughs you've shared in your mind and take them with you, whether it be to college, to a job or just back home after this ceremony."

Svetlana Beamon was already reliving some of her memories as she watched the ceremony. The Southern Wayne science teacher had known and taught several of the new graduates when they were just freshmen or sophomores.

Seeing her former students achieve their high school degrees was a special moment, but also a sad one.

"It's kind of bittersweet," Ms. Banmon said. "You see how much they've grown when they walk across that stage. You want the best for them."

But for Southern Wayne parent Rickey Faire of Dudley, the evening was a sweet success as he watched his daughter, Kim, receive her diploma. Miss Faire plans to attend East Carolina University and major in psychology.

"This has been a long road," Faire said after the ceremony. "It was glorious, just glorious."

At the school and students' request, the assembled family and friends remained silent during the presentation of degrees, but rose to their feet and exploded into cheers and applause after the last student had crossed the stage.

Senior Class vice president Christopher King led the students in turning their tassels.

"For the Southern Wayne Class of 2009, this is goodbye," King said. "Anything can be made unforgettable if the people around you are. My friends, this year was unforgettable."