Graduates urged to take chances

May. 22, 2014 @ 09:37 PM

Before lining up, Principal Reginald Brooks stood in front of his graduates and told them to push for greater things.

It was the recurring theme Thursday night as 29 graduates received diplomas and associate degrees in Granville Early College High School’s commencement ceremony.

Gary Williams, the only African-American male to graduate in his class, gave the salute to parents and encouraged them to continue pushing their children into the future, citing himself as an example. He left his secondary school graduation with a high school diploma and an invitation to Harvard University.

Martha Yosmara Garcia Cervantes, class valedictorian, spoke of her struggles to learn another language after coming to the United States 13 years ago. She told her classmates to take a chance like her parents did in escaping gang violence in Mexico to offer her a better life.

“I am grateful that my parents took the opportunity to come to the U.S., the land of the free, the land where dreams come true, the land where you can be anything you want to be,” she said. “If my parents would not have come here, I don’t know where I would be.”

Students gave her a standing ovation as she walked off the stage, close to tears.

“I think the speeches, especially from the young lady Martha, were great,” said Connie Separk, who attended the ceremony to watch her daughter, Brook Midtsjo, get her associate in arts. “It was a real tear-jerker. I am so proud of all the graduates. Brook actually did it in four years instead of five, and now she is going to N.C. State.”

The commencement ceremony, held in Vance-Granville Community College’s civic center, was an intimate one. Babies’ laughs and cries could be heard throughout, and parents’ cheers and horns startled some in the crowd each time graduates’ names were called.

Students received more than $92,000 in scholarship money; the highest award of $22,000 went to graduate Joshua Morris.

Many said they will further their education at institutions such as North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. Others were just happy that the day had finally come.

“I’m a jumble of emotions,” graduate Netehya Allen said before leading the class into the auditorium and receiving her associate in arts. “I’m just glad it’s here. I finally made it.”

 

Contact the writer at dhairston@hendersondispatch.com.