Thursday, June 12, 2014
Nearly 200 students marched into the Waccamaw High School gym as seniors on Friday and walked out as alumni, carrying on their shoulders a record $4.7 million in scholarship awards.
But that was farthest from the students’ minds as they dodged raindrops, avoided lightning and for one last time for many of them, hugged their fellow students.
“We now start a new chapter in our lives, new roads to take and new decisions to be made,” said Imani Atkins, the student body president, before quoting Dr. Seuss.
“You have brains in your head, and feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.”
And the directions are as varied as the students.
Many of the college-bound grads are staying in the Palmetto State, attracted by scholarships that are only valid at South Carolina colleges.
Eric Silvestri, who is heading to Coastal Carolina University, said he was just glad to have a break, especially because he slaved over his essay for the honors college.
Catalina Carr, a member of the teacher cadets, hopes to major in psychology at Clemson.
Taylor Haugh liked the campus in Greenville, so she’s going to Furman, even though she will lose the AP credits she earned.
“I just like the city, and it’s a smaller campus, so I won’t get lost.”
She plans to major in neuroscience and then head to medical school.
Tristan Hood said it was the chance to double-major in Spanish and music that drew her to Catawba College in North Carolina.
But while she has studied voice and sings opera, she says she intends to leave that behind in favor of popular music.
Darmonica Brown was getting a head start on her career, busily braiding her classmates’ hair.
“It’s what I’m going to be doing,” she said as she moved among her group of friends.
Nervous giggles and loud greetings gave way at 6:55 to silence, as the students lined up to be escorted to their seats in the gym.
And there was more than one tear from parents and guests as the strains of Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” filled the gym.
Salutatorian Guerry Green brought the students back to their first days at Waccamaw, when they were in “quarantine.”
“But that brought us together,” he said. “We set the bar extremely high.”
Jacob Hawkins, the valedictorian, mixed faith with whimsy in his address.
“We live in the greatest country this world has ever seen – the United States of America,” he said, after starting his talk with the words of the Gettysburg address, “Four score and seven years ago…”
Both students paid tribute to Cameron Ahalt, a classmate who died in 2008 while on a Boy Scout camping trip.
“I can assure you that Cameron is watching and Jesus is handing him his diploma,” Hawkins said to rousing applause.