Forty-four seniors who amassed more than $1 million in scholarship money and earned a trove of academic honors during a high school career fractured by hurricanes, floods and the coronavirus received well-deserved praise for keeping their eye on the prize they were awarded Wednesday Night at commencement exercises for Lenoir County Early College High School.
“This class has been truly dedicated to leaving their mark on Early College,” principal Steve Saint-Amand told the audience of more than 400 gathered for graduation in the gymnasium at Lenoir Community College, where Early College is housed.
“The Class of 2022 has been handed many hardships over the last three years due to Covid; However, your persistence has certainly paid off,” Saint-Amand said. “Although you are few in numbers, your accomplishments are considerable.”
A day after becoming high school graduates, 40 members of the Early College Class of 2022 went on to become college graduates on Thursday night, having earned associate degrees or certificates from LCC. Thirty-two were recognized Wednesday night as honor graduates. Thirty-seven will attend a four-year or two-year college, including 18 heading to East Carolina University. Ten of the college-bound students have been chosen for their university’s honors program.
“You achieved at greater levels than anybody could have thought possible,” LCPS Superintendent Brent Williams told the graduating seniors. “You didn’t just get through it. You didn’t just live and survive. You went beyond.”
Three top seniors reminisced about their time at Early College and offered advice and encouragement to classmates as part of a commencement program that has traditionally focused on the students.
“I come here to remind you today that you are the heroes of your own story,” fifth-year senior and honor graduate Albert Lin told his classmates. “Your life is your story. Don’t fall into the path paved by someone else. Continue to carve out your path with faith and the experience of the accomplished adventurer that you are.”
Kate Benson won a prestigious Goodnight Scholarship to NC State University – a four-year scholarship worth $88,000 – and plans to enter the animal science program there. While her remarks were peppered with inside jokes about her time at Early College, she was also – and understandably – looking ahead.
“Now at the end of our careers as high school students, we have another opportunity,” Kate said. “Now is our chance to take on the world and find, pursue and enjoy our passions.”
As if a symbol of his class’ ability to overcome, Bryan Letchworth took the stage in a wheelchair, the undaunted victim of a broken leg suffered just days ago.
“I know it was a long and difficult journey, but this is it. Thank you for, guys, for persevering and sharing this precious occasion with me today,” Bryan said to his classmates. “Now, let’s all celebrate the culmination of a journey that has been years in the making.”
Honor graduates recognized during commencement were:
Cum Laude (with Honor) – Tinya Marie Blake, Jaqueline Flores-Valdivia, Hazel Abigail Jade Hull-Guilliams, Samuel Douglas Lassiter, Nicholas William May, Tessy Valle, Aiyanna Revaé Wooten and Jennifer Zavala-Guardiola.
Magna Cum Laude (with Great Honor) – Isaiah Malaki Canady, He Yu Lin, Elizabeth Martinez-Zamora, Megan Lynn Morgan, Nicole Wendy Rangel, Caitlin Alyssa Turner and Madison Virginia Williams.
Summa Cum Laude (with Highest Honor) – Amr Khaled Albaadani, Geneva Kate Benson, Cintja Arias Cordova, Celeste Figueroa Arias, Caleb Bryce Grady, Haley Rae Jones, Cassidy Diane-Blue Kennedy, Stuart Bryan Letchworth, Nazier Shymel McIver, Kailey Bryan , Landon Lee Price, Moises Ramirez-Barron, Hannagan Faith Register, Jakyra Lynn Simmons, Alexis Draven Stallings, Ruben Trejo and Jesse Linton Williams.