A retired school principal told the Class of 2018 at Lenoir County Learning Academy on Friday morning that goals can be made into gold – but only with real effort and the right self-image.
Anita Sykes, who retired in 2012 as principal of Sampson School, the forerunner to the Learning Academy, used the personal stories of NBA stars like James Harden, Chris Paul and LeBron James to make the point to the eight graduating seniors that obstacles can be overcome. And to great reward.
“Use your keys to unlock your talent,” Sykes said. “That will allow you to determine your future. When we share and make goals – g-o-a-l-s – that determines our g-o-l-d.”
Harden, for example, grew up in a single-parent household in the violence of Compton, Calif. “James wanted a way out of Compton, so he went to the gym at 7 o’clock every morning.”
James’ mother was 16 when he was born. “He had a rough life. When he was 10, he and his mom moved seven times,” Sykes said. “He worked diligently to maintain his athleticism.”
The lesson there is not so much about talent, as it is about dedication, she said. “As you embark on this new adventure, you can do all things,” she told the graduates, “but you have to believe in yourself. Don’t look back.”
Principal Andre Whitfield praised the class for its hard work and achievements and encouraged the four Learning Academy eight-graders to set their sights on similar achievements. Included as part of commencement was a rite of passage recognition for those younger students: Tamir Cobb, Isaiah Freeman, Braxton Roberts and Tiffany Webb.
The high school achievement award went to Andrea Quanasia Walker. The middle school award went to Lewis J. Walker III.
Graduates in addition to Andrea Walker were Jovan Ray Coleman, Juan Antonio Hernandez, Cristian Grady-Tucker, Matthew James Parker, Isaiah Paul Payton, Abigale Josephine Smith, Trinity Marie Smith and Nicholas Sean Wheeler.
A Facebook photo album from Friday’s graduation is here.