BEAUFORT — Around 137 graduates turned their tassels Friday evening when the Class of 2019 bid farewell to East Carteret High School.
Despite the muggy temperatures and rainy conditions, families were out in force, almost completely filling the stands of the ECHS gymnasium for Friday’s ceremony.
This year’s graduation proceedings were a bit different from past years. While past classes identified valedictorians and salutatorians, this year school staff opted to identify top students as summa cum laude, magna cum laude and cum laude.
Summa cum laude are those students with a grade point average of 4.5 or greater, magna cum laude are students with GPAs of 4.4, while cum laude have GPAs of 4.3. It’s a system that is popular in college graduations. All three of the county’s high schools chose to use this system for the current academic school year.
At the ceremony, the students were identifiable by the color of their graduating garbs. Students wearing gold were summa cum laude, silver were magna cum laude and white were cum laude.
This year, Peyton Heath Lindogan, Jared Lee Willey, Cameron Michael Walton and Evelyn Hall West were each named suma cum laude. Aidan Christine Barnes and Jillian Dawn Kelley were this year’s magna cum laudes, while Jillian Irene Harvey, Eirene Grace Hynes, Samuel Evans MacArthur and Chloe Rose Williamson were named cum laude.
Mr. MacArthur said it was a long road going from freshman to graduating near the top of his class.
“I’m excited, I’m off to the next chapter of my life, I guess,” he said.
ECHS Principal Katherine Steele said she is proud of the academic rigor of not only the students named with honors, but all of the graduating class.
Twenty-five students were recognized as President’s Award for Educational Excellence recipients. They had to maintain at least a 3.5 grade point average for all four years of high school and earn at least 600 on both the verbal and math sections of the Scholastic Assessment Test or 25 on the ACT in English or math.
Another 45 were recognized for earning the President’s Award for Educational Achievement.
Ms. Steele said this year’s graduates managed to secure around $2.5 million in scholarships.
“It’s an exciting time for everybody,” Ms. Steele said. “I think for all of us tonight, it’s about being Mariners.”
Both students and teachers said this academic year was particularly difficult due, in large part to Hurricane Florence. While the storm devastated much of the area, the eastern part of the county was particularly heavy hit.
“It’s a really great time to celebrate what they have done and what the community has gone through and what we were able to put together,” Ms. Steele said.
The ceremony began promptly at 6:30 p.m. as seniors filed into the gymnasium. Senior Class Vice President Spencer Jones kicked things off with a brief introduction to the audience.
Speeches from Mr. Jones, along with Senior Class President Stephen Scott and summa cum laude Peyton Lindogan followed. The crowd also enjoyed performances by the Mariner Singers and senior chorus students.
All three speakers were nostalgic.
“When you stop to think about it, we were freshman four years ago. Yes, it really was four whole years ago. We all felt scared, nervous and excited for that ‘freedom’ high school was about to grant us. We were excited for driver’s ed, for our learners permit and licenses. For the ability to pick and choose our classes. At that point in our lives, it never crossed our mind that one day, we too would be graduating and leaving a legacy behind,” Mr. Scott said.
Mr. Jones echoed those sentiments.
“It seems like we were just yesterday … walking through the front door as freshman, ready to conquer East Carteret,” Mr. Jones said. “But soon after we sat down in our first class, probably running around having no idea where to go and refusing to ask the intimidating upperclassmen for help, we realized it is going to be a long journey to the end.”
Mr. Lindogan urged his fellow students to continue trying to make an impact on their communities.
“And I know, personally, that’s how I’ll remember this time, too,” Mr. Lindogan said. “Not the countless hours of math, science, English or history class and homework. For me, it’ll be tutoring at Beaufort Elementary School, helping kids learn how to read. It’ll be going to (the University of North Carolina at) Chapel Hill and working with people … trying to solve global problems. It’ll also be raising awareness about current issues regarding the environment.”
The ceremony closed with the senior chorus and audience joining for the school’s alma mater, followed by the class’ traditional turning of the tassels.
A number of juniors pitched in for the ceremony, serving as marshals. They were chief marshal Harrison Goodwin, and Lauren Beacham, Anna Daniels, Ashley Harris, Matthew Nelson, Sara Simpson, Mitchell Brooks, Charity Franks, Jacy Morris, Payal Shah, Abigail Wade and Hunter Willis.
Following the ceremony, Hunter VanRiper, one of the evening’s graduating students said the graduation was a community success, but it was ultimately about the students.
“Be prepared for change,” Mr. VanRiper said. “After tonight things are going to change very rapidly. It’s not going to be the nice structure of high school, you’re going to be on your own pretty soon and you’re going to have to make your own decisions and it’s pretty scary.”
Contact Dean-Paul Stephens at 252-726-7081, ext. 232; email Dean@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @DeanPEStephens.