RALEIGH — Roughly 12 years ago, they released their parents’ hands and entered the classroom – many of them with raw nerves.
On Saturday night, 58 East Wake Academy students felt a similar anxiety.
This time, though, their grade school careers were behind them. The only obstacle between the students and a high school diploma was a 30-minute presentation, and a short walk across the stage in Meymandi Concert Hall.
And their parents? They were there, waiting for them with arms open after the conclusion of the second rendition of pomp and circumstance.
“And I have to go first,” said Dashay Adams as she peeked out from the bowels of Memorial Auditorium to the backlit auditorium. “I'm nervous.”
Adams and her classmates soon discovered there was nothing to worry about.
At least, not on graduation night. After all, none of the graduates have to stress over the proverbial real world for another four years.
Continuing a tradition: Each of the seniors is destined for college, according to the school. This was the fifth year in a row that 100 percent of graduating seniors had enrolled in a four-year university or community college, the school says.
Eagle Society: Christian Creech, Bradley Dutmers, Patricia Harris, Dylan Paynter, Nathanial Tilley-Yarbrough, Sydney Jo Webb, and Cody Wilson each attended East Wake Academy from kindergarten to 12th grade.
Class motto: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy,” said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Reflecting on the past: After a slideshow showing each student and their baby photos, Renata Zeitler, valedictorian of the class of 2013, welcomed students and parents to the ceremony. She made a point to give credit for her successes where it was due.
“I’d like to take a moment to thank (Assistant Headmaster) Mr. (Darrell) Johnson for everything that he has done for our class. Even when we were being rebellious and stubborn, he never quit on any of us and ensured that we all would get to walk across this stage today,” Zeitler said.
Starting anew: Who better to provide the seniors a send-off than the new headmaster of East Wake Academy, Stephen Gay? Gay was hired as the Zebulon charter school's second leader in March. His commencement address included inspirational quotes from the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Daily Show host Jon Stewart, as well as Marshall Mathers and Calvin Broadus – also known as Eminem and Snoop Dogg. Gay invoked Dr. Seuss when he sent the students off with this word of advice: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”