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New adventures await: Four county high schools celebrate graduations

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Maia Pogodina celebrates after getting his diploma during South Central's graduation ceremony at Minges Coliseum on June 8, 2019. (Molly Urbina/The Daily Reflector)

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By Amber Revels-Stocks
The Times Leader
and Angela Harne
The Farmville Enterprise

Sunday, June 9, 2019

GREENVILLE— Despite the inclement weather on Saturday, students from four Pitt County high schools got to experience the joy of turning their tassels during graduation ceremonies  held in East Carolina University’s Minges Coliseum.

South Central High School

The pomp and circumstance kicked off with South Central High School, which graduated 394 students. It is one of the largest graduating classes in school history, officials said.

It was a great year for Falcon athletics with several winning seasons, including the state 4A men’s basketball championship, but that does not matter, according to salutatorian Sarah Ithipathachai.

“While standing on this stage is in part the result of many years of hard work, it must be said that our personal values are not defined by our GPAs or class rank, nor are they defined by the musical parts we play, the number of galleries we’ve been exhibited in, the athletic records we’ve broken,” she said.

“… While these can all be considered great accomplishments, they do not truly show all that happens behind the scenes,” Ithipathachai said. “They do not show the time we spent taking care of family members in need, the hours we worked just to support those we live with or the nights we spent speaking kind words to a friend just to keep them going until the next day.

“These are the true types of accomplishments that we teenagers manage to make every day,” she said. “Your value comes not from what others consider success but from the effort with which you carry out all that you commit yourself to.”

Valedictorian Nicole Gomez-Bush also spoke about the importance of valuing yourself.

“Since we all will embark on our unique journeys, I’d like to give you some advice from my Aunt Pat,” she said. “First, travel. Let go of cultural constraints, and enjoy life. … Second, we must always try to attach ourselves to interesting people who are passionate about what they do. Lastly, value yourself. Remember the people who are best for you are those that emanate kindness and compassion in everything they do. The world is too big and time is too short to develop toxic relationships.”

North Pitt High School

Next in the graduation procession was North Pitt. More than 180 Panthers received their diplomas.

Valedictorian Luisa Fernanda Vega Chavarria told her classmates that it did not matter what people said about them, what is important is who they know themselves to be.

“My future’s blueprint was created as a two-year-old when I first arrived in this country, which offered a blank slate for me to build a foundation for success,” she said. “I’ve only ever known my American culture, and yet I am constantly defined by my Hispanic culture.

“At the moment, the Hispanic culture has been given a negative connotation,” Vega Chavarria said, “I speak on behalf of my personal experiences. We are not bringing drugs, crime, hatred and problems. We are bringing determined individuals with greater hopes and dreams for a thriving future for our country.

“We must learn to make our differences work in our favor to make a brighter tomorrow.,” she said to applause.

Vega Chavarria also reminded her classmates to be patient as they headed into the future.

“My mother always says, ‘You don’t have wings yet but already want to fly,’” she said in Spanish. “This reminds me that good things will come to me, and our futures are not to be rushed. Patience will allow you to enjoy life’s journey and its unexpected offerings.”

North Pitt senior Jashon Collins said he was excited to graduate.

“I’m not even going to lie. This is one of the most important days of my life,” he said. “My favorite memory from the past year was winning a game against North Johnston. We didn’t do too well this year; we were 1-10. It was amazing.”

Collins will attend East Carolina University to major in biomedical engineering. He hopes to become an orthopedic surgeon.

Future Davidson College pitcher Jacob Peaden plans to major in economics; his love of math was nourished at North Pitt.

“Calculus was my favorite class,” he said. “It was definitely a hard class, but we definitely had a lot of great memories in there. We had a recipe project, and I had to make a cake. That was definitely a lot of fun.”

Farmville Central High School

The Farmville Central Class of 2019 was the third group to turn its tassels on Saturday in Minges Coliseum.

Forty-seven of the 167 graduates garnered 173 scholarships, totaling $6.15 million.

“I am so proud to see your hard work pay off,” said principal Brad Johnston, as he introduced the graduates receiving their diplomas.

Seven seniors graduated summa cum laude, earning a 4.25 weighted GPA or higher. Nine graduated magna cum laude earning a 4.0 to 4.249 weighted GPA and nine graduated cum laude earning a 3.75 to 3.99 weighted GPA. 

“I thank God. Through Him, all things are possible,” valedictorian Kayla Frazier said. “High school was unknown territory to me four years ago but I was sure it would help me grow as an individual. I learned I shouldn’t hesitate or be afraid to be involved. … I love Farmville Central. It helped shape me into who I am.”

Frazier encouraged her classmates to continue to give back.

“Don’t stop here,” she said. “Keep pushing yourself. Help others. We are all different, but we are capable of helping others.”

Salutatorian Lauren Shackelford encouraged the graduates to follow their dreams.

“Don’t forget the dreams you have right now. Remember them, and let those dreams carry you through,” she said. “Remember your accomplishments in life. Cherish the memories and remember the lessons you have learned.”

Graduate Emily Monroe told her classmates graduation day was not “goodbye,” but rather, “see you later.”

“Take advantage of the opportunities before you to become your best self,” Monroe said.

Graduate Josh Meeks added, “Our high school experience made us the individuals we are today. I have no doubt in my mind, we have only just begun. Don’t take this day for granted.”

The Class of 2019’s gift to Farmville Central was a mural, near the school gym entrance. The Class of 2019 had a hand in many of school’s athletic successes during the past four years, including state championships, regional titles and the start of several sport teams.

“We made our mark,” graduate Caroline Breault said.

Ayden-Grifton High School

Ayden-Grifton High School Class of 2019 graduate Shade Harrington hyped up his classmates and the crowd immediately at Saturday’s ceremony in Minges Coliseum at East Carolina University.

Harrington and 152 classmates turned their tassels, celebrating the close of 13 years of hard work and excitement about what the future holds for them.

“We are a diverse group who will face oppression and ignorance. We must stand united in truth,” Harrington said, as he quoted Kanye West. “‘People always tell you, be humble, be humble. When was the last time someone told you to be amazing? Be great. Be awesome.’”

In her fourth year as principal, the Class of 2019 is the first graduating class Chena Cayton has watched mature since their freshmen year.

“I have watched you grow, as you’ve strived to reach your goals. Keep charging toward excellence,” Cayton told the graduates.

Salutatorian Anna Saulter refrained from clichés while speaking to her classmates.

“I won’t tell you to change world, but I will tell you to get a support system,” Saulter said. “Be around positive people who motivate and encourage you, and will slap you on the head when you do something stupid.

“The people here only want what is best for you,” she said. “If you lose your way, you can come home. I leave with words from Ellen DeGeneres, ‘Never follow someone else's path unless you're in the woods and you're lost and you see a ... ... you see a path. By all means, you should follow that.’”

The Class of 2019 “stands on the edge of infinite possibilities,” Valedictorian Mary Frances Lutz said.

“It is easy to be filled with hope and excitement … but to achieve success, you must strive to move forward,” she said. “Failure is reached only when you allow it to defeat you. It is natural for dreams to shift and change.

“Don’t live life wondering what it could have been,” Lutz said. “Don’t get caught up in the past … focus on the present. Learn. Grow. Cherish each moment … our pasts may be different, but unlimited possibilities are ahead in our lives.”

Graduate Cameron Dixon added, “This chapter may be finished, but the book is not. Write your own story. Never forget how far you’ve come. Never give up. Success is a process. It is not easy. Never stop pushing.”