06/11/14 — Graduation 2014: Goldsboro High School

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Graduation 2014: Goldsboro High School

By John Joyce
Published in News on June 11, 2014 1:46 PM

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Ashley McCormick, right, hugs her sister, Alisha, with tears in her eyes after graduating from Goldsboro High School Tuesday night. Ashely's emotion was a mixture of happiness, because she had finally graduated, and sadness because she would miss seeing her friends daily.

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Tyree Hooks, 18, Goldsboro Class of 2014 salutatorian, steadies himself during his final address to classmates, teachers and friends. The audience came to his support when, choked up, he thanked his mother for her many sacrifices in raising him and his older brother. Hooks will join his brother, now a junior, this fall at Winston-Salem State.

The girls were in gold, the boys in blue.

High humidity threatened hairstyles and makeup, but each would hold.

This day was too important.

The Class of 2014 filed into the Goldsboro High School auditorium promptly at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

"I'm not usually nervous to speak in front of a crowd," salutatorian Tyree Hooks said, before entering the building. "I'm nervous because today is the last day."

Family and friends showered the graduates with applause from all sides and above -- there was not an empty seat.

And when graduating senior Kristen Kornegay sang the national anthem, the performance prompted a second ovation from the crowd.

Principal Brian Weeks opened the program and then handed the microphone to Hooks for his address.

The salutatorian spoke of obstacles -- and triumphs. He said the class had overcome three principals in four years and dealt with the loss of a fellow student -- Kennedy McLaurin Jr., who was the victim of gun violence during their sophomore year.

"Not everyone can say they made it this far," he said. "It wasn't easy and no one ever said it would be."

And, he said, he and fellow class members did not do it alone.

It was when he started to thank those supporters that the emotion came.

He started with God and worked his way through teachers and friends -- shedding tears when he got to his mother.

Support from the crowd brought him back.

Shouts of, "Take your time," and, "That's all right, baby," gave him the encouragement he needed to conclude, which he did with two quotes.

First up, Kevin Durant, this year's NBA Most Valuable Player -- who told his mother during his acceptance speech that she was the real MVP.

And after he, moments later, quoted Emerson, the applause that followed his words continued until valedictorian Nickie Tyler took her place behind the lectern.

She, too, took a moment to look back -- reminding her classmates how things were just four, three and two years ago.

Before the ceremony began she said the class was like a family.

And she, too, paused to remember the loved one the class lost.

"Ken, we love you to life," Ms. Tyler said.

The rest of the speech, and ceremony, was celebratory.

Parents, siblings, cousins and friends could not contain themselves and cheered for their graduates as they graced the stage.

The scene after the ceremony was all hugs, tears and photos.

Ms. Tyler's mother and father, Juanita and Terry, could not express just how proud they were of their daughter.

"She always had a drive about her," Mrs. Tyler said. "There has always been an ambition."

Both admitted not quite being ready to let go -- Ms. Tyler is going off to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in the fall -- but said they knew she was ready for the challenge.

Another person proud of Ms. Tyler, and several of the young women that turned their tassels Tuesday, is Brandi Matthews, founder of Perfectly Imperfect, a mentoring program for young women.

Ms. Matthews watched eight of her girls walk that night.

"It's sad to see them go, but I'm proud of them all," she said.