English teacher Terrence Canady called the East Wake Academy Class of 2014 “unforgettable.”
The first class to complete their full high school career in the senior academy building, the class reflected on four years of growth and change at the charter school’s 11th commencement exercises on June 5 at Meymandi Hall at the Duke Center for Performing Arts in Raleigh.
Canady managed to mention almost every member of the class of 2014 and some the things he learned from them: staying positive (the school had a student-created Twitter account, @EWAPositives, created in response to some of the bullying accounts that popped up earlier in the school year among Wake County schools), keeping friends close and finding healthy avenues of expression.
The class of 63 graduates also left each other with several pieces of advice and memories in their preferred form: the selfie.
The year of selfies: Students, staff, parents and even East Wake Academy Superintendent Stephen Gay got in on the selfie action Thursday night. While waiting for the ceremony to begin, groups of friends took selfies in the hallway leading into Meymandi Hall.
The senior slide show confirmed selfies were one of the class’s favorite past-times, with selfies from sports events and outside activities peppering the presentation.
Graduate Grayson Parker took it a step further, posing for a selfie while on stage to accept his diploma.
Gay even jumped in for one during the class picture, á la Ellen Degeneres at this year’s Oscars.
Honors: This year’s class of 63 had nine students in the Eagle Society (students who have been at East Wake Academy for 13 years, or their whole educational career), 17 members in National Honor Society, 19 students named North Carolina Academic Scholars and two salutatorians.
Helen Drotor and Aimee Murphy shared the honor, with Murphy delivering a speech welcoming parents and Drotor recognizing and welcoming the community.
Families and families-to-be: With two salutatorians, East Wake Academy was able to include proper recognition for families during its ceremony.
Co-salutatorian Aimee Murphy reminded students their families are ultimately to thank for starting them at East Wake Academy.
Droter also reminded parents that they “may have monetarily invested in the brick walls, but you also invested in the students.”
Before speeches began, some families managed to give their grads one last pep talk.
Abbey Dean and her mother-in-law-to-be exchanged hugs before the processional.
“She’s the daugher I don’t have but always wanted,” said Melania Walker, the mother of Dean’s fiancee.
Dean plans to marry her fiancée, Bennie Walker of Zebulon, once she completes her nursing degree at Wake Tech.
GPA – gratitude, perserverance, aim: Advice from Darrell Johnson of the North Carolina Office of Charter Schools for graduates:
“Don’t forget to say thank you to those who helped you on the way. ... Don’t forget those who saw a leader when you said, ‘I can’t do this.’”
Johnson also reminded students to aim high – beyond Zebulon, North Carolina and even the United States.
“I didn’t put you in a box, don’t you put yourself in a box.”
‘Welcome to the universe’: Student speakers, co-salutatorians and valedictorian Kristina Horne, all reminded the Class of 2014 of the opportunities that wait beyond East Wake Academy.
Co-salutatorian Droter called graduation a “curtain call, the final bow after graduation.”
Students have reported going on to several state universities, the armed forces and others, as Horne pointed out, are still figuring out where they’ll all go.
And to that, Horne invoked her favorite poet, E.E. Cummings: “There’s a hell of a good universe next door ... Welcome to the universe.”