06/11/11 — Young Falcons take first flights

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Young Falcons take first flights

By Aaron Moore
Published in News on June 11, 2011 11:43 PM

"Nothing but jubilation" is what Jarrod James felt Saturday morning as he stepped off Charles B. Aycock High School's football field in his white graduation gown.

Hugging his family, the graduate said he is ready now to take everything he has learned at Aycock and apply it to the future.

"They give you the instructions, it's like, what are you gonna do with the rest of your life?" James said.

He plans to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he will play football and major in exercise and sports science.

For his classmate, James Hatfield, graduation day could not get here soon enough -- the culimination of four years of a lot of work.

"It took too long," Hatfield said. "I feel like it's well-deserved being here today. Honestly, this morning I felt a little bit older."

James said he is ready to move on to his new career at N.C. State University, where he will study textiles.

But happiness wasn't the only emotion on the football field that morning.

Shelley Levan said she felt a mix of pride, happiness and heartache over watching her daughter, Kristen Martinson, graduate.

"I mean, that's my baby," she said. "I can see her still crawling around on the floor with her bottle. Now she's a young woman. I'm watching her spread her wings."

Dr. Earl Moore, Aycock principal, also had mixed emotions over letting his "baby Falcons" out of their nest.

"You are like my own children graduating today," he told the class, choking up. "You're still and always will be part of the best school ever."

Moore said the Class of 2011 holds a special place in his heart, as they were freshmen the year he became principal there.

Grief was another emotion in the air as graduates and teachers remembered the classmate who died in a car accident in October.

"We all miss Jacob Floars," valedictorian Cameron Howell said. "He has left a footprint on each of our hearts that will remain with us forever."

The students were Aycock's 50th graduating class. They commemorated the anniversary by walking onto the field in white gowns while the school's first class, from 1961, watched.

Those from the Class of 1961 said they didn't expect to find themselves back at Aycock in graduation gowns a half-century later.

And some had a little advice for the new graduates.

"Keep your mind open to new ideas," Linda Midkiff said. "A lot of times those new ideas work a lot better for you than old ones."

Gaye Hare said the graduates should always cherish memories of their time at Aycock. But most important of all, Pett Hare said they should try hard at everything.

"Do your very best in whatever you set out to do," she said.

Salutatorian Harlie Howard gave her classmates the same advice, suggesting that failure might be inevitable for some, but what's important is rising above it and trying again.

Miss Howard said she was full of confidence in her and her classmates' futures.

"Today we thank our heroes ... but also today, we set out to be someone else's hero," she said.