“We’ve come a long way from where we began,
“Oh, I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again.”
The Smithfield-Selma High School class of 2016 chose Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again” for its song, and as the graduating seniors tossed their caps into the air and cheered on June 10, that song played over the speakers on the football field.
It was the theme song for their years together and for new paths stretching ahead. It played while they cried and cheered and waved to family and friends in the bleachers. They sang it at the top of their lungs while jumping up and down or while taking selfies or Snapchat videos. It played while they hugged each other, perhaps for the final time.
Valedictorian Noah Christopher Kiser called commencement their “semicolon day.” Whether in an English sentence or computer code, the semicolon represents “the end of something past and the beginning of something new,” Kiser told his classmates.
“This chapter of our lives is now behind us,” he said. “Today marks the completion of this block of your life. But what follows, the next section beyond that semicolon, is waiting. What you write next is up to you.”
Principal Stephen Baker kept his speech short for the 47th commencement at SSS. He offered what he called one of the most powerful sentences ever spoken to him or anyone else.
“I want you to remember this sentence throughout the rest of your life,” Baker said.
He said simply and with feeling, “I am so very proud of you.”
The SSS class of 2016 was made up of 249 students, 36 of them high honor graduates, 20 of them honor graduates and 16 of them N.C. Scholars.
SSS graduates in 2016 earned grants and scholarships totaling $3.6 million, up $1.2 million from last year’s senior class. Of the 249, more than half – 162 – were planning to pursue higher education.
Salutatorian Nirmine Patricia Aicha Moore reminded her classmates that the class of 2016 had thrived and out of the classroom.
“Not only did our men’s soccer team win conference, but so did our women’s golf team,” Moore said. “And let’s not forget the varsity cheerleading squad, who won first place at the Bring Your a Game competition in Raleigh ... Our marching band won first place at nationals. Winter guard won a silver medal in worlds.”
“It’s really hard to believe that this will be the last time that our class will be together,” Moore said. “We have accomplished so much together, and I know that we will achieve so much more in the years to come.”
The graduates filed onto the football field adjusting dark-blue caps. Some wore golden stoles for high honors; others wore light blue to represent the SSS International Baccalaureate program.
They grinned and waved at family crowded into bleachers, some holding umbrellas to block the sun and many flashing cameras to capture memories. Some of the students already were tearing up.
Once seated, the audience could see the graduation caps, most of them decorated in one fashion or another. Glitter, paint, ribbons and sequins glinted in the sun as graduates turned their tassels and tossed their caps. They drew on famous quotes, meaningful lyrics and homages to childhood.
“Just did it.”
“Test the limits and break through.”
“Four years later.”
“What feels like the end is often the beginning.”
“Ready 4 my next adventure.”
“Lo mejor esta por venir,” or “the best is to come.”
“Keep your mind on your riches.”
“She believed she could, so she did.”
“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”
“Oh the places we’ll go.”
One said simply, “Love.”
Love was a theme throughout commencement. No student crossed the stage without being cheered, clapped for or hollered at from the audience, which filled the football stadium under a warm North Carolina sun and nearly cloudless sky.
But another theme ran through the speeches, the goodbyes, the congratulations and talk of ends and beginnings.
“Once a Spartan, always a Spartan.”
Abbie Bennett: 919-553-7234, Ext. 101; @AbbieRBennett