The inside of Meymandi Concert Hall rang loud with raucous laughter, shouts and the turning of a few tassels as members of the East Wake Academy Class of 2016 closed out their high school career with a graduation ceremony to remember. Here are few highlights from a high time at Meymandi.
Who they are: There were 71 graduates in the East Wake Academy Class of 2016. Those who attend college will matriculate to 33 different colleges and universities. There were 19 new members of the Eagle Society added to the rolls, denoting students who attended East Wake Academy from kindergarten through high school.
Moments to shine: In addition to hearing their names called to cross the stage and receive their diploma, every senior heard his or her name called out in an essay written and read aloud by English teacher Terrence Cannady. He saved his highest praise for graduate Sean Dancy. “Son I thank you for the days you kept me from falling apart. Your mom and dad should be so proud for raising such a joy.” Asked about it later, Dancy credited Cannady with teaching him much more than just how to read and write. “He made me a stronger man. He made me stronger in my faith and in the way I speak and carry myself,” Dancy said. And each senior saw his or her picture – many of them accompanied with baby photos – flashed across the screen during a slide show set to music.
Lessons learned: Salutatorian Ashley Johnson made it clear that high school was about more than senior year. She recalled an essay she wrote as a freshman about a man the students saw running near the school every day during lunch. “We called him Bro,” Johnson said. As she thought more about the running man none of them knew, she realized he was teaching them lessons in passion and dedication. And, she said, he taught them another important lesson. “People are always watching us and learning from us, even when we don’t realize it.”
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Popular guest: As the students lined up in the basement of Meymandi Concert Hall prior to Wednesday’s commencement ceremony, a well-dressed man entered the long hallway where the students were congregating. Cheers went up and the man ran through the gauntlet of students high-fiving each one and drawing more cheers. That man was former high school principal Darrell Johnson, who left the school last year to take a position with the State Department of Public Instruction after 10 years at East Wake Academy. He said he was keeping a promise he made to the students when he left, to return for the graduations of every student who was in high school under his tenure. “I’ve seen these students evolve with this school. They are special to me.”
Emotions high: Valedictorian Lexi Hargesheimer made it nearly to the end of her valedictory address before her emotions started to get the best of her. She had to pause when she thanked Salutatorian Ashley Johnson for her friendship. And when her voice started to crack, she paused again before she finished telling her sister Lindsey how much she appreciated their relationship.
Star power: Keynote speaker Rufus Edmisten, a former N.C. Attorney General and Secretary of State, urged the new grads not to take themselves too seriously. “Take the work you do seriously, but don’t ever take yourself too seriously.”