SandHoke graduates Class of 2023 with emotional farewell

SandHoke graduates Class of 2023 with emotional farewell

[Photos: SandHoke students enter the stadium for commencement, held Friday. ]

By Catharin Shepard • Editor • “To begin something new, you must sacrifice something old,” Taylor Walker of SandHoke Early College High School told her classmates Friday, as she looked out over the podium at the sea of assembled students, families and guests.

“I shared so many memories in the halls of SandHoke,” Walker said. “I wouldn’t say it was an easy experience, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

It was an emotional day full of memories and goodbyes as SandHoke Early College High School students said their farewells, and embraced what the future has in store for the Class of 2023.

About 100 graduates crossed the stage to receive their high school diplomas at the ceremony, held at Raz Autry Stadium at Hoke County High School.

About 40 young people also graduated with an associate’s degree from Sandhills Community College. Many others earned dozens of college credits they can transfer toward a college degree, thanks to their hard work in attending the early college high school.

SandHoke’s newest class of graduates has many hopes for the future, with some of their plans announced during the ceremony: pursuing higher education at schools like UNC-Pembroke and North Carolina A&T University, entering the workforce while seeking additional certification in their field, and going into military service to serve their country.

Mistress of ceremonies Mya Thompson recited an inspirational quote from the late actor Chadwick Boseman to encourage her fellow graduates to consider their purpose as they move out into the world.

“When you are deciding on next steps, next jobs, next careers, further education, you should rather find purpose than a job or a career. Purpose crosses disciplines. Purpose is an essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history,” Thompson quoted. “Your very existence is wrapped up in the things you need to fulfill. Whatever you choose for your career, remember the struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose.”

On behalf of the students and their parents, Thompson offered a thank-you to the teachers and staff at SandHoke Early College High School.

“They were by our side through COVID-19, ACT prep and deciding our next steps,” she said.

Taylor Walker and her fellow graduates Johnathan Morales-Flores and Rain Sandt walked their classmates down memory lane.

“As the minutes tick by, time didn’t ever seem as relevant then as it does now,” Morales-Flores said. “It feels like just a month ago that I was sitting in Ms. Baker’s class, doing DGP and hearing ‘however, comma,’ at every conjunctive adverb, which I doubt you guys didn’t hear in the back of your mind earlier as well.”

“But just a second ago I walked here with all of you in our caps and gowns, and with a memory that will mark years of our bond.”

Sandt said the Class of 2023 grew together during their years in high school.

“For most of us the last four years have been filled with many emotions, various school events and way too many book annotation projects,” she said. The students spent a year in virtual learning due to the pandemic, before returning to in-person education.

“Although we’ve all had our personal ups and downs, we’ve always been able to come together as a class and just have a good time with each other,” she said.

“I’d like to wish my peers a great future, and hope to see everything that you all do in the future. Just know that we as a class will be here for each other, because we all have this shared experience as a class that we will cherish forever.”

Shamaya Battle read an original inspirational poem for the class. Christian Trotta and Jennifer Zuniga-Flore offered words of gratitude during the ceremony. Hayden Logan and Juan Tosic presented a farewell address for the SandHoke graduating class.

After the conferring of diplomas, Yaqueline Jimenez-Soriano and Guadalupe Raygoza led the SandHoke Class of 2023 in turning the tassels on their caps to signify they had graduated. Damir Watkins treated attendees to a special musical performance.

John Squire offered the invocation. The Hoke County High School JROTC posted the colors. Saxophonist and SHECHS Class of 2018 graduate Shawn McNeill performed the national anthem, and led the parade of graduates into the stadium.

The students also made sure to pay special tribute to Principal Dr. Colleen Pegram-Wike. Even through the COVID-19 pandemic and illness in her family, she was always there for her students, speakers said.

The SandHoke class added the unexpected item to the program to surprise their principal with a show of gratitude.

“Mrs. Pegram, as we call her, has always been a proponent of her students being resilient. Ever since freshman year in our seminars, she stressed the importance of grit. And yes, she truly has instilled these qualities into us, especially the Class of 2023,” Thompson said. “The class that overcame. But we learned it from her, witnessing how she continued to put in the work during her husband’s illness, how she continued to persevere and give her all to us during the height of the pandemic. And for that, we say thank you.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.