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Driver runs red light, hits car, utility pole
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A Snow Hill woman who was on her phone while driving along Ash Street was involved in an accident Tuesday that caused her SUV to collide with a BMW, strike a utility pole and overturn.

The crash happened shortly after 12:30 p.m. at the intersection of John and Ash streets, said police officer Romelio Sanchez, with the Goldsboro Police Department.

Jordan Sutton Murphy, 26, of Snow Hill, was driving a white 2018 GMC Yukon SUV west on Ash Street at 40 mph and failed to stop at the traffic light, said GPD Capt. Trey Ball.

The speed limit on Ash Street is 20 mph.

In addition to speeding, Ball said Murphy admitted to looking at her GPS and that when she looked back up and saw the light was red, her vehicle entered the intersection and collided with a 2014 black BMW car driven by Henry Claiborne Smith, 65, of Goldsboro. Smith was driving north on John Street at 20 mph.

“I didn’t have time to stop,” Murphy said.

After striking the BMW, the SUV slammed into a utility pole and overturned on the passenger side, Ball said. The BMW remained in the middle of the intersection after the crash.

The impact of the wreck resulted in a tire being ripped off the SUV.

Smith and Murphy were evaluated by emergency medical personnel but did not go to the hospital, Sanchez said.

“Everybody’s just banged up pretty much,” Sanchez said. “I know (Murphy has) got some injuries as far as her seat belt and everything, but thankfully everybody is OK.”

The crash briefly closed down the westbound lanes on Ash Street as Goldsboro firefighters worked to clean up debris and stabilize Murphy’s vehicle.

Ball said Murphy was charged with failure to stop at a red light.

'An unstoppable force'
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The 225 newest graduates of Eastern Wayne High School reflected not only on the challenges of completing their senior year amid a pandemic, but also on what they learned about perseverance and persistence.

“These children definitely have something unique to share with their grandchildren on how they graduated in the year of the COVID pandemic,” principal Lee Johnson said in opening remarks for Monday’s graduation ceremony in the school gymnasium. “It is truly a day to celebrate and be thankful for this amazing group of young men and women who have already shown us their determination, strength and resilience.”

Graduating senior Esmilagro Sanchez, in her message of welcome to families at the ceremony, spoke of the stresses of high school compounded by “handling a worldwide pandemic.”

“But guess what — after all of that, we managed to find ourselves sitting here today,” Sanchez said. “We were able to be resilient in the face of adversity, and that is something that we should always be proud of. No matter how hard the journey may be, never give up, because it will always be worth it in the end.”

Caroline Smith, the first of two student graduation speakers, said that after so many days shared with classmates over the past four years, “it feels bittersweet that this is our last.”

She said she was tasked with speaking on shared experiences in a year filled with COVID, masks, social distancing and virtual learning.

“Social distancing and high school seniors go together about like oil and water,” Smith said. “We are not supposed to experience high school from 6 feet apart.”

She spoke of many missed activities and missed experiences with classmates during stay-at-home instruction. “Can what we missed be a shared experience?” she asked. “I think so.”

“COVID may be what our class is remembered for, but it will not be what we remember about high school,” she said. Instead, she said, graduates will remember their friends, accomplishments made and milestones reached along the way.

“High school has equipped us with more than just an education,” Smith said. “We have learned patience, perseverance, resiliency and strength in the face of adversity. We have grown into capable and mature young adults.”

She said she knew that each graduating senior “will be successful in whatever path you choose.”

“Today may mark the end of our Warrior journey,” she said, “but we will always be Warrior strong.”

Nicholas Barrett, the second student graduation speaker, said he and his classmates “are made up of our experiences and memories.”

“All of the things that we have been up to this point make us who we are,” Barrett said. “And the best part is we’re not even done yet. We will continue to experience victories, losses, joys, and hardships that make memories every day that mold us here and that create who we truly are and who we are meant to become.”

Barrett asked his fellow graduates about the kinds of experiences they would create for themselves.

“What kind of memories will you make? When things do not go quite as planned, like our senior year, how will you handle the disappointments and challenges that you face that will determine the experience that you have and the memories that you walk away with?”

Barrett said the class had responded to “a multitude of barriers” with an unrelenting will to succeed.

“Despite our setbacks and obstacles, we are standing here today because our drive, our perseverance and our willpower to endure is stronger than any deterrent,” Barrett said.

As the graduates begin to pursue their goals, Barrett said, “there will be harder challenges to overcome.”

“What we can do is choose how we respond as we take these next steps in life,” he said.

Whether graduating seniors plan to go on to college, trade school, the military or straight into the workforce, “there is no denying that society will gain something worthwhile,” Barrett said. The pandemic his class has gone through “shows how valuable everyone in society is,” he said. “Whatever you plan to do after we graduate, you impact society.”

He told classmates that although “the door for high school has shut for us,” they would find other doors that open into their future.

“We can use this experience as a way to forge ahead and do with it what we want,” Barrett said. “Remember, if you continue to be relentless, you will be an unstoppable force.”

Prior to speeches by Smith and Barrett, the singing group Warrior Avenue performed “Waiting on the World to Change,” with a solo by Rashon Sellers.

After the speeches, graduates filed to the stage one by one to receive their diplomas. After they all returned to their seats, members of the Class of 2021 simultaneously turned their tassels, signaling the beginning of their lives as high school graduates amid cheers from family members in the bleachers.

After the recessional, the exhilaration continued outside.

Graduating felt “awesome,” said graduate Emily Bedford.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Bedford said. “I’m just glad the day finally came.”

She said she intended to continue her education at Wayne Community College with the goal of eventually becoming a psychologist.

“My heart’s heavy, but I’m just really glad to be done,” said graduate Hannah Arends. She said she was moving to Charlotte and planned to attend community college there.

Graduate Isaiah Bass said his next step would be to join the Army.

“It feels amazing, honestly,” Bass said. “I’ve been waiting for this my whole life.”

Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper and his wife Nicole, talk to the media after announcing a donation to Miracle Park on Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in Rock Hill, S.C. Tepper said he is no longer considering building a domed stadium in downtown Charlotte. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Relay for Life set for Friday
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The annual Wayne County Relay for Life will take place this year, but it will be an abbreviated event.

The American Cancer Society’s event will be held Friday from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fairgrounds. The fairgrounds are located at 2801 U.S. 117 South in Dudley.

Relay for Life will begin with an opening ceremony at 6 p.m., then continue with the traditional survivors lap at 6:30 p.m.

At 9 p.m., there will be a luminaria ceremony. Luminarias will be lit in memory of someone who lost his or her battle with the disease or to honor a survivor or someone else. Luminarias can be purchased for $10 each on the Relay for Life website.

This year’s Relay will conclude at 10 p.m. with a closing ceremony.

Another change this year is mandatory masking and social distancing.

And all participants and volunteers have to sign a COVID-19 waiver before the event by going to https://bit.ly/34ZqeKO.

“This event will not be our traditional Relay for Life event,” said Brenda Robinson, American Cancer Society senior development manager. “Since Gov. (Roy) Cooper lifted restrictions on mass gatherings outside, we recently made the decision to come together at the fairgrounds and do what we can to raise much-needed funding for the American Cancer Society.”

During the Relay, local vendors will be selling hot dogs, chips, drinks, sweet potato fries, French fries, nacho cheese, strawberry shortcake and other baked goods, as well as various crafts. Proceeds will go to the Cancer Society.

There will be games with prizes and also musical entertainment throughout the night by Jim Earp Entertainment.

Relay teams will be set up at the fairgrounds. The teams have held fundraisers on their own throughout the year to support the Cancer Society.

“Relay for Life is the signature fundraiser for the American Cancer Society,” Robinson said.

She said it’s been a staple in Wayne County for more than 30 years, beginning in 1990 at the Goldsboro Family YMCA as a 24-hour walk, run and swim event before switching to Relay for Life in 1994.

It grew so much over the years that it had to be relocated from the YMCA to Eastern Wayne High School and Wayne Community College before settling in at the fairgrounds.

Last year was the first time in 30 years that the Relay had to be canceled, Robinson said. Instead, the Cancer Society held drive-thru trunk-or-treat at the fairgrounds on Oct. 20, which included a Halloween costume contest for children.

In its peak year in 2008, the Relay raised $729,000, she said.

“The money that’s raised supports a lot,” Robinson said.

One of those is a national call information center at 800-227-2345 that has nurses on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“A cancer patient can call there and get any kind of information they need, insurance, clinical trials, any kind of cancer information,” Robinson said. “This is something we’ve added since COVID.

“If they are a cancer patient sitting at home and can’t get out to see other people, we have a live video chat that they can call in and talk to someone and see who they’re talking to.”

Money raised also supports the Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery program, which provides free rides to treatments for cancer patients. It had to be shut down last year due to COVID, but will start back up in July, Robinson said.

The Cancer Society’s Hope Lodges will also open back up soon. The closest one to Wayne County is in Greenville and allows those receiving cancer treatments in Greenville to stay for free. The only thing they provide is their own meals.

“We have 28 research grants in North Carolina right now totaling more than $10 million,” Robinson said. “The University of North Carolina and Duke get the biggest chunks. Money from the Relay also goes to these grants.

“We are also working on our human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination campaign. That is what’s going to eliminate six types of cancer in the future.”

Relay funds support the HPV campaign, too.

“We are focusing on research, education, advocacy and our services,” Robinson said. “One of the things we’re most focused on this year is health equity, making sure that everyone has equal opportunity to treatment.

“We are working to save lives, celebrate lives and lead the fight for a world without cancer.”

Robinson said the American Cancer Society does so many things in Wayne County that people don’t know about.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to have a normal Relay next year,” she said. “We’re hoping things will return to normal and we can go back to our normal weekend and our normal activities.”

'You made it'
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DUDLEY — Carson Daly stood before Southern Wayne High’s 168 graduating seniors in the Saints gymnasium Tuesday morning and said “while our class has gone through hardships, the hardships do not define us.”

Daly’s words defined the Class of 2021’s experience that was altered during the past year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Daly, who spoke during commencement, talked about the hardships he and fellow seniors faced.

“We haven’t had a full school year in two years due to coronavirus,” he said. “We have lost friends and family and struggled financially. When I think of our class, I think of perseverance.

“No matter what hardships and challenges you faced, you made it. No matter what you went through, you made it.”

Daly told his classmates they are like family and that they helped him make it through the challenging times.

“The people sitting in front of me have been my classmates and my friends for the last four years,” Daly said. “After today, some of us may never see each other again, but we will always remember the memories we made with each other at Southern Wayne High School.”

After Daly’s speech, he shook principal Kevin Smith’s hand when Smith came up to close the graduation ceremony.

Smith thanked parents and family for their cooperation and support during a difficult school year, which involved transitioning from online learning to going back into the classroom.

“I would like to recognize a very special group of people here today,” Smith said. “If it had not been for them, you may not have been here today or be ready to embark on the next stage of your life.”

Smith said that before the students left, he wanted to let them know just how proud he was of the way they persevered through a difficult two years of school.

“Seniors — congratulations,” Smith said.

“I am very proud of you. This has been a very difficult 15 months. If any group deserved our recognition and our admiration, it’s the group sitting here today.”