BEAUFORT — Swathed in blue and gold, 131 Mariners burst through the gymnasium doors Friday evening as newly minted graduates of East Carteret High School.
“It is with a heavy heart I accept that diploma tonight because I know it means closing the chapter of my life which brought me close to some of my best friends in the world,” class president Ethan Lynk told the class of 2017 as the students eagerly awaited that coveted piece of paper under the glare of bright gym lights.
“But it is with charisma and poise that I look into these next days and years, and I take comfort in knowing that I will always want more for each and every one of us,” he noted.
After an hour or so of milling quietly through the halls one last time, the group came to life as the seniors celebrated the end of their high school career and looked toward bright futures.
“Today is the beginning of opportunity,” Bryson Alexander noted during his valedictorian’s address. “Starting today, all of us have the choice to seek out what we want in life. I think that idea is important.”
Parents, friends and family didn’t hold back as principal Joe Poletti began doling out the diplomas, with proud fathers loudly proclaiming, perhaps to the chagrin of some students, “That’s my baby!”
Mr. Alexander was joined by a number of top East scholars in the top 10 percent, which also included salutatorian Nathan Rowland, Savannah Barnes, Savannah Bridgers, Jonathan Burch, Madison Donald, Charles Englehardt, Riley Goolishian, Hunter Graham, Miller Kittrell, Courtney Lupton, Sarah MacArthur, Karmin Styron and Jarrett Yeomans.
The class’ academic performance was boosted by many other grads who brought home honors for clubs, societies, athletics and awards from the state and board of education.
In all, the class of 2017 garnered $3.4 million in scholarships, according to ECHS staff.
“We all have the potential to be exactly what we want to be, to shape our worlds the way we want to and, above all, to find contentment on whichever path we choose,” the valedictorian hopefully told his classmates.
As students walked – and admittedly, sometimes strutted – the stage Friday, they were looked on by several familiar faces, including Superintendent Dr. Dan Novey, who joined East Carteret for his final graduation overseeing the county’s school system.
In July, longtime educator and administrator Mat Bottoms will take the top post.
Other honorees on stage included County Commissioner Jonathan Robinson, school board chairman Perry Harker and board member June Fulcher, top school staff and educators who had family graduating.
Mr. Robinson, who walked the halls among the seniors Friday as they prepared for commencement, taught many of the students behind the wheel as their driver’s education teacher.
“I’ve come to just about everyone of these,” he told the News-Times as he shook hands and congratulated many by name. “I like to encourage ‘em.”
This year’s ECHS seniors opted to use remaining class funds for the completion of the specially designed academics building on campus as their class gift.
A number of juniors also pitched in, those serving as marshals included chief marshal Timothy Gillikin III, David Brooks Jr., Allison Bullock, Riley Craig, Courtney Fry, Samantha Fulcher, Miranda Green, Milaina-Joy Guthrie, Cameron Harding, Ashley Holder, Katherine Rice, Emma Simpson, Mackenzie Stanley and Erica Wade.
“Friends, I urge you to set your sights far and wide,” Mr. Lynk concluded. “I urge you to never stop wanting more, to never stop setting goals and to never forget that in this small school, in this small town, with nothing but yourself and your drive to achieve, each and every one of you did it.”
Contact Jackie Starkey at 252-726-7081, ext. 232; email firstname.lastname@example.org; or follow on Twitter @jackieccnt.