East Wake Academy parted ways with 66 seniors who crossed the stage of the Meymandi Concert Hall and received diplomas during their graduation ceremony in downtown Raleigh last Wednesday.
The ceremony triggered both tears and laughter, as graduations commonly do. It also shed light on the sense of family the small senior class and the faculty at the Zebulon public charter school developed over the course of their time together. Here are some of the highlights of the EWA Class of 2015 and its big night.
To sum it up: The 66 graduates were accepted to 33 different colleges and offered a combined $1.2 million in scholarship funding. The senior class featured 25 North Carolina Academic Scholars, 40 honors graduates and 23 National Honor Society graduates. Thirteen students were recognized as Eagle Society inductees for attending the school since kindergarten.
Nerves, as usual: There was no shortage of shaking, twitching and tassel situating going on in the hallway behind the auditorium as the soon-to-be graduates awaited the monumental occasion. Alona Johnson fanned her face with both hands, with some classmates pitching in by waving their stoles to cool her down. Johnson said it felt hot in the hallway, but also acknowledged she was pretty nervous.
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Ready for change: Isabella Hertzig used her valedictory speech to talk how she and her peers were often subjected to change over the past four years and how they overcame change for the better, a lesson in responsibility. An example she used was how the graduates and Principal Chris Jones came together over the course of his first year and their last at the school. “Change is imminent for our generation, more than any generation before, and we must prepare ourselves for it,” Hertzig said. “Do not let change be what happens to you. Rather, I challenge you to each embrace change.” Hertzig closed by quoting Gandhi, urging her peers to, “be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Life advice: Mike Wheless of WQDR had all kinds of pointers for the young adults to consider as they enter their next chapter in life, ranging from setting more than one alarm to learning patience. Waiting for a pizza fresh out of the oven to cool, he said, is better than burning your mouth. “You can’t watch the phone, it’s not going to ring,” Wheless said. “You’ve got to vacuum, sweep the floor, go for a walk, and then the phone will ring. Things just don’t happen when you want them to happen, they happen when it’s time.” His final advice was to be positive and happy regardless of the circumstances, and, like the Kenny Chesney song, “Don’t blink. Cherish every step of the way.”
Reaching the finish line: Presleigh Anderson wasn’t concerned with tripping so much as she led the way across the stage for the presentation of diplomas. She was more focused on turning her back to the crowd and taking a quality selfie with her seated peers in the background. “It was no question – I was like I’ll just pull it out of my pocket real quick. I’m the so-called rebel of the class, so I told myself I had to do it.” She was so immersed in the act she forgot to pull her phone out again later down the line for a second selfie with the principal. While she made the most of the ceremony, Anderson said it wasn’t easy waiting, mostly seated, for nearly an hour and a half to be announced a high school graduate. She compared the feeling to sitting still in traffic.