By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
It is said that as we age, our life moves through stages.
Such was the case for 399 graduates in Edgecombe County Monday and Tuesday as they received their high school diplomas in three commencement ceremonies.
Rain and the threat of severe weather forced graduations at Tarboro High School and SouthWest Edgecombe High School inside the school’s gymnasiums Monday and Tuesday evenings. Tarboro had 123 graduates, while SouthWest had 202 graduates. The graduations were originally scheduled to take place on the schools’ football fields.
North Edgecombe High School’s graduation took place as planned in the Keihin Auditorium at Edgecombe Community College, with 74 graduates walking across the stage.
Twenty-three students became graduates of Edgecombe Early College High School in a May 23 commencement, bringing the total number of graduates of Edgecombe County Public Schools this year to 422.
North Edgecombe High School
An uplifting spirit filled the Keihin Auditorium at North Edgecombe High School’s graduation.
The Edgecombe County Gospel Choir regaled the audience with ”Still I Rise,” dedicated to the graduates. Class Valedictorian Joshua Dickens later told his classmates that it is their time to leave the nest and soar gracefully like an eagle.
“Class of 2013, it is indeed our time to fly,” Dickens said. He reminisced on the class’ experiences and ways they worked as a “team” to make it through high school successfully.
“High school just wouldn’t be high school without the team,” he said. “We did it together, hence one heart, one team, Warriors.”
John Farrelly, superintendent of Edgecombe County Public Schools, congratulated the graduates and parents and thanked the school administration for preparing the graduates to be “lifelong learners.”
North Principal Robert Batts spoke about the uniqueness of the Class of 2013 before leading the class in the turning of their tassels and proclaiming them graduates of North Edgecombe.
“Know that you will be part of a special legacy that no other school will match,” he said. Earlier in the ceremony, he bestowed special honors on several members of the class, honoring Dickens as the valedictorian and recipient of the superintendent’s award for his leadership qualities, Cierra Franklin as the salutatorian, and Tyvon Sumler as the recipient of the citizenship award for his willingness to help others. Down the road, Franklin told the graduates that they would realize their graduation day is “not the end but the beginning.”
“It was a long road. Sometimes it felt like it would never come, but it’s finally here,” said Trevonnis Archer, a graduate. “It feels like a new chapter in life.”
“It’s a great experience to accomplish all my goals and to be successful in the future,” said Deja Whitaker, also a graduate. “I’m excited.”
While Whitaker looks forward to the next step of her life journey – attending the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and studying nursing – she will always have the memories of her class at North Edgecombe.
“Everyone is close and everyone’s a family,” she said. “We all depend on one another.”
Jalen Deans, another graduate, said he enjoyed Dickens’ graduation speech.
“Everybody brought positive energy,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to seeing what everybody does after school and I’m happy to see everybody.”
Deans plans to attend William Peace University, where he will study psychology and education.
SouthWest Edgecombe High School
The largest graduating class in Edgecombe County this year – SouthWest – celebrated the end of their high school journey and the beginning of the next phase of their life in their school gymnasium.
“This is our year. We did it!” said Kelsey Renee' Bryant, vice president of the graduating class. She reminded the class that it has taken “13 years of hard work and dedication” for them to get to their graduation.
“These four years have indeed been a journey,” said class president Jalen Bryce Dickens. “We can now say that we’ve achieved a major accomplishment that will open many doors in the future.”
Class valedictorian William Bradley Joyner offered his congratulations to the Class of 2013 and “the best of luck for wherever the journey in life might take you.”
“Each adventure, each success, each failure will come together to determine your future,” he told the graduates.
The class salutatorian, Holly Denise Perry, also addressed the graduates. She reflected on the challenges the class faced, including having three principals in four years, and the fact the class has gone through those experiences together and successfully emerged as graduates. Perry plans to attend East Carolina University in the fall, where she will study business administration.
SouthWest Principal Marcus Whichard recognized the valedictorian and salutatorian, all the honor graduates, and the recipient of the superintendent’s award – Ezequiel Mosso – for his outstanding scholarship, leadership and service.
While the SouthWest ceremony focused mainly on the graduates’ future, it also was a time of reflection. In a moment of remembrance, Tachina Adiena Coley, treasurer of the graduating class, and Tonia Dawn Summerlin, reporter for the graduating class, lit a candle in memory of loved ones whose death prevented them from being at the graduation.
The culmination of the graduation program was Whichard’s proclamation that the students were graduates of SouthWest Edgecombe High School. Cheers and applause filled the gymnasium as Melissa M. Drake, senior advisor, invited the graduates to turn the tassels on their caps to signify their new status.
“I’m excited,” said newly graduated Shamesha Grant. “SouthWest has taught me a lot for the real world and I’m ready for success in the future.”
Grant plans to attend Fayetteville State University, where she will study nursing.
“It’s kind of bittersweet. I’m excited for the road ahead of me, but I will miss SouthWest and the things the school’s done for me,” said Dawson Gould. Gould plans to attend Appalachian State University, where she will study international business.
“It’s just all got here so fast. The four years went by really fast,” said Jennifer Britt. “I feel like I should be walking into freshman year all over again. It’s like it was yesterday.”
Britt said she is thankful for her experiences at SouthWest and the people she has had the opportunity to meet.
“It has made me a stronger individual,” she said. Britt plans to attend Pitt Community College in the fall, with the ultimate goal of studying business.
Tarboro High School
Tarboro High School Class of 2013 graduated in a packed out school gymnasium with standing room only.
“It is a pleasure to be part of a turning point in the lives of these young people,” said Tarboro Principal Darrell Richardson. His words of advice for the graduates: “Set your goals high,” and “Continue to strive for excellence and success.”
Julie Alison Hayes, class valedictorian, spoke about the accomplishments of the Class of 2013.
“Not many people can say their football team advanced to the state championship all four years they were here,” Hayes said. She gave her classmates a word of advice on stepping out into the world, outside the doors of Tarboro High.
“This day may just be one stepping stone in our life journey, but it’s a significant one,” Hayes said. “We will have to make the difficult transition from dependent teenagers to independent adults.”
Hayes asked her classmates to reflect on the people or things that had motivated them up to the moment of their high-school graduation and to use that as motivation for their future accomplishments.
David Lane Long, salutatorian, spoke about the close-knit relationships among the members of the small class and the overall potential of the class.
“The collective bond this class has is unique,” Long said. “Being close to many friends in our senior class is a blessing.”
Long advised the class to “be proud” of their high school degree but not to be satisfied with that one accomplishment.
“There’s so much potential sitting out here in front of me,” Long said, as he surveyed the soon-to-be graduates from the stage. “I have 100 percent confidence that we’re going to do great things both individually and collectively.”
With that being said, Long led his classmates in the turning of their tassels and Richardson proclaimed them graduates of Tarboro High School.
Thunderous applause reverberated in the gymnasium at that moment, evidence that the drenching rains the audience endured when they arrived at the high school had not dampened their spirits.
“Take one last look around and take in this marvelous sight,” said Quadasha Ruffin, senior class president, as she looked out over the graduates, family members and high school staff gathered in the gymnasium.
“It’s overwhelming,” said one of the graduates, Jasmine Taylor. “It’s like it hasn’t hit me yet, but it’s a real good feeling…I am so happy to be finally done with high school.”
“I feel happy, but I’m not ready for the real world yet,” said Aaron Moore, also a graduate. He reflected on his time as quarterback for the Vikings Football Team.
“I wouldn’t trade it for nothing in the world,” he said. He plans to go to college and continue playing football.
“It was wonderful,” said Delvin Jones, of his graduation. “Now the hard part begins – college.” Jones plans to attend Methodist College, where he will play on the football team.