Western Vance High graduates 25, nears 500
Processing in, they wore black robes and mortarboards topped with golden tassels, the colors of the Wizards at Western Vance High School.
The screams and cheers were chilling – each of the 25 coming to get diplomas with a unique story, or circumstance, that had led them to this day.
While the elements outside the gym were settling down from the visit of Tropical Storm Andrea earlier in the day, families of Western’s newest graduating class were revving up a celebration inside.
The 10th year of Western pushed the total number of graduates to 487, including 10 earlier in the year at the semester break. The number is significant because students attending the alternative high school are deemed at risk, and may well have not gained a high school diploma without it.
“Isn’t it a great day for a graduation?” asked principal Eric Pierce. The reaction was boisterous and affirmative.
Pierce, in short remarks to a couple hundred attending, extended gratitude to the work of the graduates, and to teachers and families who supported them.
“They are dedicated to these students, constantly finding ways to teach our students,” Pierce said of the teachers.
He shared a chuckle with the parents, noting their cries of joy and heartache along the way to the occasion.
“You’ve experienced joy and happiness,” Pierce said.
To the graduates, he said, “A few of these will be the first in their families to graduate. They’ve discovered they can be successful.
“I encourage you to continue to make good choices.”
As each graduate was called, they got a handshake and diploma from Pierce while posing for a picture, then proceeded down the line to shake hands with Superintendent Ronald Gregory and four school board members in attendance: Ruth Hartness, Margaret Ellis, Ed Wilson and Emeron Cash.
Pierce even turned the grads toward family for cellphone and video moments, each with a large smile and a kind word.
And at 20 past the hour, Pierce gave them the words they’ve longed to hear, pronouncing them graduates and asking them to turn their tassels.
The crowd cheered, the graduates recessed from the gym, a tear or two was shed and shouts of joy filled the early evening sky.
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