Croatan High School graduates show their excitement as they prepare to flip their tassels at the end of commencement exercises Friday night. (Cheryl Burke photo)

OCEAN — Members of the Croatan High School Class of 2022 proved Friday night that all challenges, including hurricanes and pandemics, can be overcome to graduate.

“As the class of 2022, it is truly amazing the amount of obstacles that have stood in our way,” CHS senior Patrick Reindl said in his keynote address to the 190 classmates and family members who packed the gym for commencement exercises.

“Thankfully, we were able to come back to regular in-person learning this year and enjoy what has been the closest thing we have had to normal since our freshman year,” he continued. “While we have persevered through challenging circumstances, let us celebrate how far we have come and celebrate the community that we have been a part of.”

In his opening remarks, Senior Class President Croft McLean also congratulated his classmates for enduring many obstacles.

“We’ve been through it all, but we made it,” Mr. McLean said. “We survived. Because of these unfortunate events and the timeline of our high school career, we lost out on so much from valuable learning time to school spirit events. But we are now in the new normal, and we were still able to accomplish astounding things while surviving and creating our own story of a high school career.”

He further exhorted fellow graduates to not forget the lessons they’ve learned.

“To our class, as cliché as it sounds, we have accomplished and endured so much already in our lives, that no matter what comes our way over the next four years, we will excel. We will always survive,” Mr. McLean said. “We have built a legacy through relationships while at Croatan, and this journey is not stopping anytime soon and will take all of us to new and better destinations. Don’t forget the good, the bad, the ugly and the fun that we all have been through these past years because we will all be better individuals because of it.”

Both Mr. McLean and Mr. Reindl thanked teachers for persevering through the many transitions posed to them during the COVID-19 pandemic, including virtual learning, to instruct students and prepare them for the future.

Mr. McLean also presented the senior gift on behalf of his class, which was money toward the cost of a new trophy case for the school’s front lobby.

As for awards, the Cougar Choice Award went to Christian Drawhorn-Sloan. The award is given to someone who is known for serving others and has grown academically and socially.

The Spirit of the Cougar Award, given to someone who has overcome exceptional obstacles to graduate, went to Patrick Dunbar. The senior plans to work at a camp for autistic children following graduation.

Principal Kay Zimarino recognized 59 students named N.C. Academic Scholars by maintaining at least a 3.5 grade point average.  She also honored the numerous students who received Latin honors.

An additional 39 seniors were honored for the President’s Award for Educational Excellence. To get that award, students must maintain at least a 3.5 grade point average for all four years of high school and earn at least 600 on the verbal and math sections of the Scholastic Assessment Test or 25 on the ACT in English or math.

Ms. Zimarino said the senior class earned more than $1.73 million in scholarship money.

Other special moments came when the Croatan vocal ensemble presented “Found/Tonight” and “Draw the Circle Wide.”

In her commendatory remarks, Ms. Zimarino encouraged seniors to make the most of pivotal moments in their lives, such as graduation. She also exhorted them to make wise decisions and not be afraid of future challenges.

“Don’t be afraid when you are faced with a pivotal moment in your life,” she said. “Each one of you is smart, hard-working and you have tools to navigate and, in turn, make decisions that are best for you and perhaps your own family, your career. Will it be easy? You know the answer to that, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy.”

After Ms. Zimarino presented the class of 2022, members flipped the tassels on their caps and threw them in the air.

Juniors serving as marshals for the ceremony by having the highest-grade point average were Chief Marshal Joshua Pittner, and Lillian Cannon, Madeleine Cottle, Cammie Davis, Nicholas Farley, Sarah Fulp, Audrey Kirkwood, Carolyn Le, Hailey Paul and Aly Young.

Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.

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