While East Wake High School did away with the small-school format at the start of the year, it named a valedictorian for each of the four schools one last time.
But for the first time in a long time, only one East Wake valedictorian spoke as the school swiftly handed diplomas to the Class of 2016 during commencement Friday morning at the Raleigh Convention Center.
“Not having four graduation speeches – 45 minutes,” Principal Stacey Alston said. “We met a new record. But the four valedictorians got together and wrote a speech together.”
By the numbers: The walk across the stage for diplomas and the turning of the tassels marked both a milestone and a fresh start for 314 graduates.
They combined to earn more than $3.9 million in college scholarship funding.
The four valedictorians, Amarachi Achonu, Taylor Barr, Logan Jackson and Emily Pitt Whitfield, each had a role in the ceremony. Achonu gave the speech the four had prepared.
‘Where do we go from here?’: That’s what Achonu asked her classmates to consider.
She said they’ve had years to discover their dreams, and now it is time to make them become reality.
“What will you do when you leave here and go out into the world? It’s time to write our story,” Achonu said. “Your story tells everything about who you are and, more importantly, why you are who you are.”
Achonu also urged her peers to remember the high school experiences that have molded them into who they are today.
“You never have to re-experience high school,” she said. “You never have to come back. But you can take all this with you.”
A proud moment: Family and friends swarmed the graduates after the program ended and they funneled into the open side of the convention center.
Trey Vines found himself busy taking instructions to pose this way or that, but he didn’t mind it one bit.
“I know they’re proud of me,” Vines said of his support crew. “I expected it.”
Vines plans to attend Pitt Community College and study law enforcement.
“I’m proud of myself,” he said. “It means I can achieve a lot of stuff if I work hard at it.”
Year of change: It marked the first graduating class Alston has had at any school as principal.
“It’s almost kind of like your first child,” he said. “You learn with the first child.”
Alston commended the graduates for their ability to adapt to change in their final year, as the school went through the structural transition.
“They were excellent about the transition,” Alston said. “They asked a lot of questions, but that’s to be expected. They took it in stride and accepted that there would be a lot of transition this year.”