WSHS graduates 212

A graduate waves after receiving his diploma.

The West Stokes band provides music during the graduation ceremon

West Stokes Principal Kevin Spainhour talks to graduates.

The West Stokes chorus sings “The Irish Blessing.”

Jeremiah Jensen talks to fellow graduates.

Claire Foxx shares advice with her classmates.

Salutatorian Julie McGhee talks about growing through life.

Valedictorian Justin Kiehl encourages his classmates to embrace change.

Eliza Elliot performs “Life’s a Journey”

Haley Copenhaver and Spencer Wilcox sing “Defying Gravity.”

Shannon Anderson, Claire Foxx,Julie McGhee sing “Featherstone.”

Graduates celebrate by tossing their caps.

West Stokes High School graduated 212 Wildcats Saturday, sending the students into the world with messages of hope, dedication, and perseverance.

Principal Kevin Spainhour centered his message to graduates around the class motto, “When you go, what you leave is a work of art. And we’ll hate what we’ve lost but we’ll love what we find.”

“Art is not always on a canvas or a stage,” said Spainhour. “Art is the unique work of an individual trying to make a difference. From our service clubs to our students who have gone into internship programs and to be there for kids in the elementary schools to those who have been with Mrs. Hawkins walking into homes and hospitals to those who have volunteered with Special Olympics, what we have here are students that can make a difference. When these graduates leave here today they will be leaving a work of art.”

Spainhour challenged the graduates to find a passion in life to to commit to it.

Schools Superintendent Ronnie Mendenhall told the graduates they had to be prepared to seize the moment when opportunities arose.

“You will have opportunities in life placed before you,” he said. “Many of them will be unexpected. You have to take the moment and seize it and make the best of it. If you want something you have to go get it. Don’t ever let someone tell you you can’t do something.”

Seniors with the top four grade point averages (GPA) each had a chance to speak to their fellow graduates.

Jeremiah Jensen, who had the fourth highest GPA, talked about the importance of realizing the beauty and wonder in the everyday.

“Our lives are composed of a seemingly infinite sum of minute moments and each is a precious gift,” he said. “At times like these where we are making a very big transition we have to stop and ask where did our time go. I would like to answer that with the response that I did not waste a minute of it.”

He also warned about being too critical in life.

“Do not try to compare yourself to your peers, it always ends badly,” he said. “If we learn to enjoy our journey and all that life offers us, then things will work out just fine.”

Clair Foxx,the graduate with the third highest GPA, referenced Star Wars in her speech talking about how Harrison Ford’s unscripted response at the end of Empire Strikes Back became one of the film’s best lines.

“We won’t do everything the way we think we will do it,” she said. “Our goals are important, but we must accept that not everything will go as planned. We have to seek potential and attraction in the unscripted moments.

“Our plans are always subject to reinvention and embellishment,” she added. “But that is what makes them so extraordinary.”

Salutatorian Julie McGhee, who plans to major in psychology at Salem College, likened the the path of students from childhood to graduation to the seasons a tree endures as it grows.

“The key is staying rooted in who you are and who you are growing towards,” she said. “Today is our celebration of growth. Our budding celebrates that we have made it through a season of misfortune and endurance. We are all growing our new adult lives.

“In all seasons make sure you are being who you are or working toward who you want to be,” she added. “The seasons may change, but as long as you are well rooted you will continue to grow tall reaching for the sky.”

Valedictorian Justin Kiehl, who plans to major in business administration at UNC Chapel Hill, encouraged his fellow graduates to embrace change, but never forget to care for other people.

“True growth is determined by how much you care for people and their situations,” he said. “Change is growth and embracing it opens doors of opportunity.”

Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.

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