06/10/14 — Leaving the nest

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Leaving the nest

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on June 10, 2014 1:46 PM

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Members of the Charles B. Aycock Class of 2014 celebrate Monday evening. Two more schools, Goldsboro High and Southern Wayne High, will hold their commencement ceremonies this evening.

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Alex Strickland hides behind rows of white caps and gowns to blow up a beach ball to throw at the end of commencement exercises when she celebrates with her classmates on the football field of Charles B. Aycock Monday night.

During Monday night's commencement at Charles B. Aycock High School, valedictorian Myra Waheed encouraged her fellow graduates to dream big.

"You have the ability to make new friends who push you to act in your truest nature, push away from negative influences, learn a foreign language, try your hand at an art, place a new standard for yourself and travel across the world or discover hidden ends of your own local community," she told them.

And she also talked briefly about two heroes in her graduating class.

One student, she said, battled "the sad deliverance of her father's terminal cancer her sophomore year."

"For a year, she struggled with how to manage her high school life with her familial priorities. That very year, she decided to accelerate and transform her life," Myra said. "Though her father passed away in September, this student somehow managed to maintain A's and B's, decided to graduate a year early and will be living with her brother next fall as she pursues her dreams of becoming a nurse at East Carolina."

And she spoke about another hero -- a student who was placed in foster care as an infant and ended up coming to North Carolina at the age of 14 to live with his sister.

During his time at Aycock High School, Myra said, he found a love for football and also turned his life around through the camaraderie and love for the game. He plans on playing for Methodist College in the fall and pursuing his dream of becoming a physical education teacher.

"These students are not alone in their fight," Myra said. "Each one of us is fighting our own battle and chasing our own dreams."

Salutatorian Cady Sheeks encouraged her fellow graduates to continue to rely on one another as they step into the next phase of their lives.

"As we go out into the world, our palms may be sweaty, our knees may be weak and our arms may be heavy, but have faith and confidence in yourself and you will succeed," she said. "Remember that in times of need, we can rely on each other to walk the road together, through the storm, whatever weather, cold or warm."

As the students entered the football field one last time before graduating, they walked through an arch of 10 sabers held by members of the school's Junior ROTC.

During the ceremony, principal Earl Moore Jr. told those in attendance that their children had reached one of the most triumphant times in their lives.

"Charles B. Aycock High School is a better place because of you," he told the graduates. "We are letting you out into the world tonight. You will be faced with many challenges and many obstacles. You have learned your lessons and learned them well. Remember, you are family and you always will be."

At the end of the ceremony, 14 white doves were released, and the graduates threw their mortar boards, streamers and confetti into the air, tooted horns loudly and even bounced beach balls -- their last act together as the Class of 2014.

Patrick Smith said his four years at the school were tough at times, but also fun.

"Some of the challenges were procrastinating and homework," he said. "As a high-schooler, you tend to do that. But overall, I faced those challenges and to overcome them just feels amazing."

Smith said he's excited to see what life has in store for him next, as he attends the University of North Carolina to study biology and become a doctor.

Sunny Smith had mixed emotions about finally graduating.

"When I first started four years ago, this day seemed so far away to me," she said. "It still doesn't feel like I actually did it, except for the glitter and confetti in my hair.

"Graduation was awesome, worth every moment it took to get here."