Johnston County high schools on Friday awarded diplomas to 2,040 students.
At Smithfield-Selma, 253 seniors received their diplomas in the school’s gym. Tropical storm Andrea forced the graduates inside, but many of them were relieved to get out of the oppressive humidity.
SSS has struggled in the past with dropouts. But Principal Michael Taylor happily announced that 78.1 percent students who began school four years ago as freshmen graduated Friday night. That’s the highest percentage since the class of 2006, when the state began tracking that statistic. Taylor’s announcement was met with cheers and applause.
In their speeches on Friday, SSS valedictorians Estefania Castro-Vazquez and Valerie Davis offered advice to their classmates.
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Castro-Vazquez asked her fellow graduates to pursue their passions without fear. “While we are taught there is a real world out there preparing to consume us if we step out of line, know that we are the creators of this reality and therefore have nothing to fear,” she said. “Remember, doubt must become no more than vigilance; otherwise, it can become dangerous.”
Davis upped the ante, adding toward the end of her speech: “A little passion and drive is all we need – and let’s be honest, guys, a little crazy probably wouldn’t hurt either.”
Class president Emily Edwards summed up the challenge facing graduates more succinctly. “Let’s make it a good life,” she said. “Or not – the choice is ours.”