Smallest early college graduating class may be the most prepared

Published 3:54 pm Monday, June 12, 2023

By Mike Barnhardt

Enterprise Record

It was the smallest graduating class to date for Davie County Early College High School, but members of the Class of 2023 may be better prepared to navigate their way through a rapidly-changing world than their predecessors.

“Graduates, today is about celebrating you, your accomplishments and the sheer determination it took for you to make it here today,” Principal Melissa Lynch told them during commencement ceremonies May 22. “You being here today is a testament to your drive and ambition.”

All of the graduates earned a high school diploma and college class credits, while some are graduating with an associate’s degree (two years of college credit). “What’s more, 100 percent of you have made plans to continue your post-secondary education.”

The first half of their years were marred by COVID shutdowns and changes in classes. Some of those changes still exist.

The students, Lynch, persevered. And that will help them in the future.

“When you are faced with challenges again – and you will be – you are able to approach those situations with confidence. Continue to be positive, principled, proactive and productive.

“Be open to change and celebrate it as an opportunity for growth. Don’t hide from your mistakes. Embrace them and learn from them. Embrace feedback.

“Keep moving forward in everything you do. Don’t be bitter; that will consume you. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.”

She urged the graduates to use what they learned at the early college – academically and personally – to work for them.

“Leverage your knowedge and experiences. The opportunities in front of you are endless, and the landscape is ripe for planting. Your harvest will be among the most diverse in history.

“Learn and grow every day, just as you have, because you are Phoenix Strong,” Lynch said.

Savannah Gouch was the academic speaker for the graduation ceremony, and urged her fellow classmates to find a happy balance in life and have confidence in themselves.

“I had to find a balance between pushing myself too hard and not pushing myself enough,” she said. “How are you supposed to balance school, friends and work?”

Savannah said she was one who always wanted to have the answer to any question – the right answer.

“But the questions I’m asking today don’t have definite answers. As we continue to find our way in the world, I encourage you to think about those questions. There’s never going to be the right answer, just what you feel at the moment, and that’s all that matters.

“Don’t worry about how you’re going to balance everything. If you know it’s right, don’t doubt yourself. Keep pushing and reaching for what you want. I hope you don’t think twice about what your next step will be because we’ve got this.”

Andre Ascencio-Moreno spoke as the Phoenix Award winner.

“We, as a class, have fought through the unthinkable. I see courage and success. It was not easy. Every one of you was affected by the pandemic or some other challenge over the past four years.

“You should not be afraid to fail or make mistakes, because if you truly want to learn something, you will make mistakes and learn from them and try even harder the next time. You control your destiny.”

Andre said a near accident earlier in the day made his early college days flash before his eyes.

“I thought about how grateful I am. I know how much of a privilege it is to come to the early college. We are great. We have power, and every single one of us is going to make it in the future.”

Katelyn Johnson was the student selection for a graduation speaker.

“The last four years have been the best and worst times of our lives,” she said.

Katelyn admitted to crying like a kindergartner on her first day at the early college. For one, she hadn’t read the required book over the summer. And her first class was her least favorite, math.

But she excelled.

“I am so proud of us. We came together when it mattered. I hope you all find peace, love and happiness whereever you end up. And always remember, where there’s a Phoenix, there’s a friend, and you’ve always got a friend in me.”

Tiffany Pifer led the Pledge of Allegiance, and Candice Trent introducted a moment of silence.

“The last four years have not only been an academic journey, but a spiritual one,” Candice said. “As members of the early college community, we believe in  diversity and tolerance.”