Thursday, June 5, 2014
Five women tossed their mortarboards into the air May 29, and just like that, they were graduates of Lowcountry Preparatory School.
Actually, it wasn’t quite that easy.
But with parents, siblings, grandparents, other relatives and a host of friends watching, Chloe Grabeman, E. Stellings Lee, Jessica Mangialardo, Verneisha Smith and Samantha Underwood walked to the front of the school gym to pick up their diplomas, and toward the next steps in their academic careers – college.
Together the Class of 2014 collected more than $215,000 in scholarship funds – money that will be used at five different schools.
On graduation day though, the focus was on the present and the growth experienced by the class as a whole.
Smith, the salutatorian, who also received a Life-Long Learner Award, recalled that when she attended a special event early in her years at Lowcountry Prep, she was asked her goals.
“I wrote down that I wanted a job, a car and a house,” she said during her speech.
“But then, “ she said, “I was asked to really think about it. My goals changed.” I still wanted those things, she said, “but I wanted more. I wanted to teach, I wanted to learn.”
She encouraged her classmates to reach for their goals, to not be afraid.
Lee, the valedictorian, thanked her teachers and her classmates for sharing her accomplishments and for being with her as she has pursued her goals.
“Thank you for sharing this part of my life with me,” she said, as tears started to roll down her cheeks.
William Bushnell, the Upper School director, who also teaches English and literature, invoked the heroines of the past – Helen, who launched a thousand ships; and Penelope, who raised her son as a single mother and stayed faithful while Odysseus was completing the Odyssey.
“Seek out new friendships,” he said, “but be proud of what you seek,” he said.
For each of the graduates, he had a special message, a special word, based on knowing each of the five through small classes and close relationships.
And four of the graduates left a special gift – in writing – as part of the Senior Class Will.
Grabeman, who is heading to Less University in the fall, left her volleyball jersey and an abiding love for “Star Wars.”
Mangialardo, who expects to call the College of Charleston home for the next four years, conferred up Jessica Muller, “the ability to write ‘Jessica M.’ on everything without confusing people.”
Underwood, the newest member of the class, plans to attend Coastal Carolina University.
But while she joined the school as a junior, she was embraced for her ready smile and sense of humor.