06/16/13 — Cougars graduate

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Cougars graduate

By John Joyce
Published in News on June 16, 2013 1:50 AM

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Leonza Williams waves to family and friends during the Goldsboro High School commencement ceremony Friday night. The school graduated 109 students. Principal Tonya Faison said that every student scheduled to graduate met their requirements and graduated on Friday.

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Goldsboro Principal Tonya Faison smiles at Victoria Ruffin as Ms. Ruffin sings during the Goldsboro High School commencement ceremony Friday.

The 109 seniors that comprised the Goldsboro High School Class of 2013 graduated in surround sound at Cougar Stadium Friday. At least that's how it sounded as the cheers and applause rolled across the football field and bounced off the brick facade of the nearly 80-year-old school, creating the effect of a college football stadium filled to capacity.

"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times ...," salutatorian Damarian Henderson quoted from Charles Dickens. "We have all been waiting anxiously for this day to come and now that it's finally here, I can truly say it has been a long journey."

He said the journey had taught them each the true meaning or perseverance and overcoming tough odds.

Valedictorian Shantia George spoke of one chapter closing and another beginning. She said that for some, the accomplishment meant a new chapter for their entire family.

"For some of us, we are the first ones to graduate high school in our families. Some are the first to attend college. Others are defending our country by enlisting in the military."

Principal Tonya Faison said she could not be more proud of the 2013 graduates she's come to know so well over the last two years.

"Everyone scheduled to graduate this year did so," she said.

That means none fell short of credits, failed or were held back for any reason -- not a single student.

Not only that, but the class earned more than $1 million as whole in grants, loans and scholarships.

"$1,241,524 total, among just 109 students," Ms. Faison said.

Family, friends and alumni were all on hand to congratulate the graduates. Balloons and banners danced above the heads of the onlookers in the stands.

"I'm just here to lend support, to honor the accomplishments of these students," James Hinnant said.

Hinnant was in attendance because of one particular graduate -- an adoptive son so-to-speak -- Brandon Graham.

Graham, like many high school students, had some obstacles early but managed to overcame them and achieved his goals. He is now looking forward to ITT Technical Institute and a career.

Fellow graduate ShaQuan Oliver, surrounded by aunts and cousins beaming with almost as much pride as his mother, said he felt great.

"All the years from pre-school to now, I can't believe it," he said.

The high school wrestler has his sights on college athletics and a career in visual arts.

He said that he wished his classmates well and hopes to have inspired future Goldsboro High students.

"You have to motivate yourself," he said before heading back for more hugs and photographs with his family.

At the close of the graduation ceremony Ms. Faison dedicated a song, sung by Dillard Middle School music teacher Victoria Ruffin, to all of the students. She said she chose the song because of its message and because the words were true.

The song -- Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You."