06/09/13 — Graduates leave the box at CBA

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Graduates leave the box at CBA

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 9, 2013 1:50 AM


Charles B. Aycock valedictorian Tara Simmons and salutatorian Ricky Tharrington Jr. turn and take a picture of themselves Saturday.

After 12 years of school, Cameron O'Quinn said his first goal after getting his diploma is to take some time off, although he may get a summer job.

The newly minted graduate of Charles B. Aycock High School will then put his three years of ROTC training to use with the Army Airborne.

But a half-hour before parading out onto the school's football field for the commencement exercise, it was all about staying grounded.

"Somewhere between nervous and excited at the same time, afraid I might trip and fall," he said with a smile.

Classmate Khaliel Owens also had mixed emotions.

"It's a good thing but it's a sad feeling," he said of the occasion. "You know, when you see all your friends and see all your teachers."

It may have been his accomplishment, but someone else was on his mind.

"My mom, this day's for my mom," he said. "I have just been waiting for it to come so I can start my new life in college."

He plans to attend the University of North Carolina at Pembroke in the fall and study athletic programming, with aspirations of going on to medical school and becoming a physical therapist.

Yvonne Mills, a counselor at the school for the past 11 years, plans to retire this summer, so this weekend also marked her last graduation ceremony at the school.

"My baby's graduating, too," she said. Charlie Mills, the youngest of her four children, will be attending Western Carolina University in the fall.

Courtney McHale and Miranda McHale -- unrelated, except for the alphabetical order that had them placed side-by-side in the graduation line -- compared notes about the day's events.

"It hasn't hit me yet," Courtney said. "When we get up on that stage, it's going to hit us. It's going to make my mom so proud, because I'm the first one in my family to graduate. My mom already started crying this morning."

"My mom started crying last night," said Miranda.

Lorraine Giles of Pikeville was there to support her oldest daughter, Ki'Eris Giles.

"I'm a bundle of nerves," she said before ceremonies began. "I feel like marriage or something, like we're waiting for a marriage."

Threats of inclement weather could have delayed the event, something Dr. Earl Moore, principal of CBA, was concerned about when he awoke to the sound of rain at 3:30 a.m. And again at 5:30, when calls and texts began to pour in.

"You don't see evidence of the rain last night," he told the crowd. "And today we came together to make it a special moment for 287 students."

The Class of 2013 had much to be proud of, he said -- including $5.4 million in scholarships, a school record, and 41 percent of the class earning honor graduate status.

Salutatorian Ricky Tharrington compared life to a Rubik's cube, challenging his fellow graduates to remember one thing.

"No matter how messy things get, or how lost you are, you are still always in a better place than the cubes that never make it out of the box," he said.

Valedictorian Tara Simmons enlisted Tharrington's help as she recalled an English teacher's advice to "always be taking pictures, if not with a camera then with your heart."

The two then turned away from the crowd, holding up a camera to capture the moment with their fellow graduates as a backdrop.