06/11/14 — Graduation 2014: Southern Wayne High School

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Graduation 2014: Southern Wayne High School

By Melinda Harrell
Published in News on June 11, 2014 1:46 PM

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Southern Wayne student Angel Garner shares a special moment with her mother, Diane, after she received her diploma Tuesday evening.

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Southern Wayne High School seniors were excited Tuesday night as they waited for graduation ceremonies to start at the University of Mount Olive. More than 200 students earned their diplomas. Principal John Boldt acknowledged the graduates -- and the families who helped them get there.

He characterized it as "bittersweet," but Southern Wayne High School senior class president Drew Shaw had been waiting for this day for a long time.

So after he and 226 other members of the school's Class of 2014 entered a raucous Kornegay Arena Tuesday evening, he reflected on his life -- and the journey he and his classmates will now embark on.

"We have been waiting for this moment, for what seemed like an eternity," he said.

Keaton Bradley, the class' salutatorian, also marked the end of her high school career.

"Over the past few months, I have realized how many 'lasts' we've had -- our last prom, our last homecoming game, our last spirit week, our last school lunch, our last high school exam ... and the list can go on and on," she said. "When you think about something being your last you cherish it more.

"You rush through your freshman, sophomore and junior years because you don't realize it will all be over in a blink of an eye. Then, when senior year finally hits, you want to slow down and rewind because you realize that you're about to be thrown into the real world and that's a scary place."

Valedictorian Shannon Casto took a different approach.

She encouraged the class to move on and look toward the new beginnings that await them.

"We are moving on. Every story has a next chapter -- to the unknown; to those blank pages," she said. "No one's story is prewritten and the plot develops as we live our lives.

"The memories we made -- good or bad -- will go with us. Although memories are great, that's all they are. We must find the now, and go from there."

All of the seniors who gathered to mark the school's commencement ceremonies Tuesday had people to thank.

And Southern Wayne principal Dr. John Boldt made sure those who helped the graduates earn their diplomas got a chance to be recognized, too.

"To all of those parents and family members who helped these graduates get here, please stand. They could not have gotten here without you," he said.

The graduates paused in their own celebration to applaud those who helped and encouraged them over the past four years -- and through school, pointing out their parents and family members standing in the bleachers and waving.

After they turned their tassels and walked out of the arena to the sound of "Pomp and Circumstance," the graduates celebrated outside, smiling, laughing, hugging and saying goodbye -- at least for now.