Over 200 West Stokes students crossed the stage on Saturday, taking their first steps into the world as high school graduates.
Principal Kevin Spainhour, who started his time at the school when the Class of 2016 were entering freshmen, said he was very proud of the graduating class.
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose,” said Spainhour, noting that the class had raised $2,986,601 in scholarships with six seniors being accepted to the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. “But understand that having brains in this world doesn’t always mean you are ranked in the top 10 percent academically.
“Consider the young man that finished high school in January, has already completed fireman school, is in classes for EMT certification and will begin work this summer,” said Spainhour. “Or the other early graduate who since leaving West has already earned 18 college credits from UNCG. It takes brains to have established a life plan and set your path to achieve those goals whether they include a four-year college or not. It may be through a focused community college program or enlisting into a branch of our armed forces – know that your brain will allow you to find success but doesn’t mean each of you will follow the exact same path.”
He encouraged the graduating class to take risks as they entered the world.
“You must be willing to take steps to create positive momentum,” said Spainhour. “You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. When I was sitting in your seat, I had absolutely no plans of ever being a high school principal much less in the same community that I grew up. Yet, here I am. Graduates, from this day forward understand that you control your decisions. And your decisions will control your direction. Steer yourself into an awesome future.”
Salutatorian Joshua Lucas Gordon told his fellow graduates that they were just starting to make a difference on the world.
“I think our graduate brains have only scratched the surface,” he said.
Valedictorian Collin James Philip Marot encouraged the graduating class to take time to find out who they truly are.
“Defining your beliefs uses a process of searching, examining and concluding,” he said. “You have to listen to what other people say with an open mind. You need to let the facts speak for themselves and be willing to believe what they say. You need to have beliefs of your own and take ownership of them.”
He encouraged his fellow graduates to take advice from parents and friends, but to use that advice as guidance in determining their own outlook on the world.
“It is crucial that before we embark on the exciting journey ahead of us that we have the tools we need to define what we believe and therefore be the ones impacting the world,” said Marot.
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.