More than 500 seniors looked back with nostalgia and looked ahead with excitement Saturday as they received diplomas during commencement exercises at LCPS’s three traditional high schools.
South Lenoir High School graduated 156 seniors, Kinston High graduated 165 and North Lenoir graduated 195. Whether delivered by class representatives – as they were at South Lenoir and Kinston – or a guest speaker, commencement addresses at all three ceremonies acknowledged the significance of the moment and passed on advice for successfully taking the next step.
“It is up to you to visualize your future and move forward along that path. In order to do this you have to trust yourself – trust your thoughts, trust your feelings, trust your gut and, most importantly, trust your heart,” Candace Wooten, a 2001 honors graduate of North Lenoir, told the school’s current crop of graduates. “At this point in your life, you are the author of your book. Now, you are the master of your fate.”
Wooten, who left North Lenoir to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees and works now in the healthcare field in Atlanta, offered four points of “life advice” to the seniors – trust yourself, live a life of service, never stop learning and be present in your own life.
“You must decide what is your defining moment,” she said. “Don’t be asleep at the wheel. Be present everyday in everything that you do or you may miss your defining moment.”
The four top academic seniors who delivered addresses – Megan Monroe and Na’eem Hargett at Kinston High and Hunter West and Cailey Howard at South Lenoir – didn’t have to look far to find a defining moment.
“Today marks a grand milestone in our lives,” said Monroe, an International Baccalaureate Diploma graduate who finished at the top of her class. “It can be viewed as a transition from childhood to adulthood and a time of mixed emotions that include excitement, fear, gratitude, anticipation of what lies ahead, sadness and finally pride.”
Hargett, also an IB Diploma graduate, urged his classmates to action. “Class of 2018, ask yourself, are you a thermometer or a thermostat? A thermometer only records the temperature of the environment, adjusting to the situation; but a thermostat initiates action to change the temperature of the environment.”
As a freshman, summa cum laude graduate West told her South Lenoir classmates, she used her calculator to estimate they would spend 1,460 days in high school. Looking back Saturday, she tended to calculate the passage of time in lessons learned – and not necessarily the lessons of the classroom.
“South Lenoir opened my eyes to how success is not measured in the form of a large paycheck or a high test score, but instead by the degree of compassion one individual displays toward another,” she said.
Howard, another summa cum laude graduate, also remembered entering South Lenoir as a freshman, alongside many students who had spent their entire time in public school together. On Saturday, 13 years of camaraderie came to a close.
“We are all about to enter the first day of the rest of our lives. A new journey awaits,” she said. “But I hope you will always remember to cherish the people around you who have loved you, helped you learn and guided you into becoming leaders along the way.”
At its five high schools, including the two non-traditional schools in the district that held graduations earlier, LCPS awarded diplomas to 583 seniors. Of those, 76 were awarded academic honors.
Recognized on Saturday at South Lenoir were: summa cum laude – Michaela Ann Ezzell, Cailey Brennan Howard and Hunter Alexis West; magna cum laude – Stephen Cole Branch, Avery McKenzie Bryan, Katherine Spence Wallace and Courtney Marie Whitfield; cum laude – Ashleigh Diane Byrd, Sophia Ana Heath, Cassidy Hope Hill, Carter Ashton Kennedy, Amber Danielle Parker, Jackson Robert Parish, Warren Matthew Waller and Owen Len White.
Recognized at North Lenoir were: summa cum laude – Sidney Swindell, William Sargeant, Alita White and Mary George King; magna cum laude – Aaron Worley, Julie Harris, Cecilia Aguilar Escamilla, Emily Heath, Jeffrey Brett Howard and Cecilia Wong; cum laude – Morgan Hafenmaier, Elizabeth Paige Cannon, Noah Herring, Kennedy Phillips, Anne-Wesley Taylor, Aaron Jarman, Kenneth Grant Carrasquillo, Samantha Moody, Brandon Potter and Kassidy Brynn Smith.
Recognized as Kinston High were: summa cum laude – Megan Grace Monroe, Kne’ashja Dariyé Anyel Jackson and Na’eem-Hameed Shareef Hargett; magna cum laude – Diamonequia Divetta Fields, Danielle Tishay Heath, KeAndrea Shanise Walters, Faith Nicole Ward and Jasmine Alexis Waters; cum laude – Sharon Christiane Rose Frieden Durand, Tara Perez-Guerrero, Samari Enyce Coleman, Alexa Daniele Chapman, Tyriana Lashae Cotton, Alexis Alexandria Pierre, Bailey Ann Blake, Eboni Aiyana Peterson-Greene and David Lee Cobb.
As the top scholar in her class, Monroe received the KHS Academic Scholar Award for 2018. As the student ranked second in the class, Jackson received the Viking Scholar Award for 2018.