As the summer begins, 377 former students at Knightdale High School have turned their tassels and walked forward to new beginnings.
Tuesday afternoon’s graduation at Memorial Auditorium attracted emotional reactions from family and friends who packed out the room to honor their students.
The rundown: Knightdale High School graduated 377 seniors who together earned a total of $3.3 million in scholarships. The class of 2015 included 14 presidential scholars and 81 N.C. Scholars. Thirty students completed high school as members of the National Honor Society.
Seniors of success: KHS intervention coordinator Vernestine Kent started a mentoring program for at-risk seniors last year. Of the 80 students she mentored, 79 flipped their tassel Tuesday.
Last class of KHS: Although it was not discussed frequently during the ceremony, some students were aware that with five new institutes and a significant redesign coming, the class of 2016 would graduate from the Knightdale High School of Collaborative Redesign. Graduate Diane Jaehn commented that she was “relieved” to be done and to move on before the upcoming changes.
An awe-inspiring anthem: Graduate Devin Lessane’s strong performance of the National Anthem, accompanied by the KHS Symphonic Band, thrilled the audience. Wake County school board vice chairman Tom Benton, who represents eastern Wake County, gave Lessane a shoutout during his opening remarks: “It’s seldom that a national anthem will raise the hair on your arms and give you chills ... that was very moving,” he said.
iGraduate with the iPhone: Phones were used in place of mirrors, cameras and to communicate last-minute with family and friends. And of course, there was no lack of selfies taken during the hour-long wait leading up to the ceremony.
Joyful tears: While waiting to process into the Memorial Auditorium, Anyssa McBroom said she was sweating from nerves but really, “I’m about to cry,” she said. Another student wiped his eyes after receiving his diploma. Class president Nicole Ferraro’s reflections took family members and classmates through a chronology of their 13 academic years, themed around teary-eyed parents and bittersweet endings.
Salutatorian’s multi-generational charge: Sofiya Volobuyeva spoke to both her peers and the adults in the audience. “We want you to listen to us ... we have good ideas, sometimes,” she said. To her fellow students, she reminded them that now, they are “the main characters of the drama” in history and society. “The present is dynamic,” she added.
Valedictory inspiration: Kristin Olson shared her story of starting as an academically disadvantaged kindergartener who was determined not to let labels define her success. “I realized that I can do much more than what is expected of me,” she said. “Excellence is not a skill, it’s the attitude you carry with you.”
Appropriate applause: Despite the administration’s warning to remain quiet during the ceremony, three different disabled students received loud applause as they crossed the stage.
Stepping out into the sunshine: After the ceremony, families and graduates celebrated, hugged and snapped photos in sunny weather that saw temperatures reach the high 80’s. Graduates quickly removed their robes to display vivid dresses and snappy suits.