Hoke High awards 357 diplomas to Class of 2022

Hoke High awards 357 diplomas to Class of 2022

[Photo: Students arrive for the graduation ceremony. (Contributed photo)]

By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • For the past two years, Hoke County students have dealt with hardship and heartbreak, disappointment and disruption. When it came time last week for the Hoke High Bucks Class of 2022 to celebrate their achievements, the weather threw one last problem their way – forcing a graduation rain date reschedule to Saturday morning instead of Friday evening.

But as Principal Dr. Thomas Benson said in remarks at the ceremony, the Class of 2022 has already learned to persevere.

“’I choose to live by choice, not by chance. To make changes, not excuses. To be motivated, not manipulated,’” Benson said, quoting a poem that fit the moment. “’To be useful, not be used. To excel, not to compete. I choose self-esteem, not pity. I choose to listen to my inner voice, not the random opinion of others.”

A total of 357 seniors marched across the stage and received their diplomas Saturday at Raz Autry Stadium on the Hoke High School campus. The Class of 2022 received over $11,750,000 in scholarships.

In his address to the graduates, Benson recounted just a few of the many challenges the students had to overcome to reach their graduation day.

“I would like to personally say to the Class of 2022 what a challenging four years you’ve experienced with all the ups and downs of the pandemic, remote instruction, and the transition back to a normal school year,” he said. “Look around and take in this moment. Just this year we’ve experienced major challenges. Dress code protests. Random searches. School lockdowns. And the challenges of student and teacher absences due to COVID. Each of you have had your own difficult moments that you have endured.”

The principal also touched on the losses the school community felt over the past year with the untimely deaths of a beloved teacher and coach and several Hoke High students. The ceremony held a moment of silence in their memory.

Despite the many struggles, Benson said, the graduating Class of 2022 managed to persevere through it all.

“Our seniors have modeled high expectations for themselves and their commitment to graduation,” he said. “Being accountable for their decisions and actions, and creating positive relationships with those they value and respect. And finally, pursuing their education with passion and enthusiasm.”

Maya Raed Albayyari was named valedictorian and Bella Poutledee Khantivong was named salutatorian for the Class of 2022.

Albayyari earned an associate’s degree from Sandhills Community College while in high school. She will attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she plans to double major in business administration and dentistry.

“I want to start off by saying congratulations to the Class of 2022. I’m so proud of how far we’ve come,” Albayyari told her classmates. “Many of us have grown up in this school, the surrounding middle schools and elementary, and in some ways, it feels like family. We definitely fight like one.

“These last four years have been nothing short of demanding, but we have persevered regardless,” she said in her speech. “From going online through the COVID-19 pandemic, to school threats and controversies, there’s nothing about high school that has been predictable.”

Khantivong will attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she plans to major in global health with a concentration in epidemiology, then intends to continue her education in medical school to one day become a physician.

In her speech, Khantivong encouraged her classmates to not only work hard in academics, but to also foster good relationships with others and work to address injustices in the world.

“Life is more than just school and grades. There’s so much that we can choose to do in the short amount of time there is in human life,” she said.

Rebekah Hammonds, senior class president, offered the farewell address and Emily Maynor, senior class vice president convened the turning of tassels.

Members of the Board of Education and Superintendent Dr. Debra Dowless offered their congratulations and helped present diplomas to the graduates. The 2022 Junior Marshals who assisted with the ceremony included chief marshal Alaina Goins, Kirstin Carter-Jackson, Solmar Castellon, Janiya Hoffler, Faith Mason, SaCoya Morrisey-Southerland, JaNiya Murchison, Perez Prats, Sawyer Sanchez, Miyana Sanders, Aniyah Shaw, Brianna Starks, Kaylynn Tetreault-Jackson, Baylee White and Branson Winburn.

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