It was the perfect ending to a year-long celebration at South Stokes High School Friday night when the 50th class of 163 graduates walked across the stage to receive their diploma.
“These last four years have made you part of this school and this legacy. You need to be proud of that and take that pride into your life,” said principal Wayne Duggins. “Take risks, make the most of each day and show the world what it means to be a Saura. Stand tall with dignity like our namesake and become the best person we all know you can be. Let me be the first to say congratulations and thank you class of 2015 for a great and memorable year that none of us will ever forget.”
Superintendent Ronnie Mendenhall introduced guest speaker Dr. Frank Sells, a graduate from South Stokes first class of 1965 who went on to earn a doctorate from Virginia Tech, become a principal and superintendent in Stokes County, and president of Surry Community College.
“This is a significant accomplishment,” Dr. Sells said. “The class of 1965 had many success stories and I believe that much of their success, like your future success relates to some experiences they had at South Stokes. As a graduate you will take skills and a great deal of knowledge with you. My prediction is like many of us in the first class you will remember times in your life a positive word of encouragement from a caring faculty member or a lesson learned in or out of the classroom that will play a big part in a decision you have to make. Just know as a graduate of South Stokes you can reach any personal goal. Believe in your dreams and keep your options open.”
Dr. Sells added his class of 1965 couldn’t have dared dream they would someday carry a small rectangular instrument in their pocket that could be pulled out to take a picture along with written words and sent to someone across the world in a matter of seconds.
“South Stokes prepared us and has prepared you for a fast changing world,” he said. “I will give you one piece of advice, not based on any scientific evidence but instead of my meandering experiences. I hope in the future you will lay down your cel phone, step away from your computer screen and look at people around you, listen to them and talk to them. That’s my simple advice. I hope you continue to accomplish your dreams. If you desire a big house someday I hope you have it, but I hope it’s never big enough to hold all your friends.”
Salutatorian Carolyn Ross said the past four years have been an eventful, interesting and crazy ride.
“None of us would have made it this far without the support of our amazing teachers, administrators, family, and friends. I sincerely hope that you thank somebody who has helped you at some point in life and give them a big hug and let them know how important they are” she said.
Ross also thanked coach Keith Gore who is retiring this year.
“He has been my mentor, coach and friend for the past four years and has taught me so much more than how to run or jump hurdles. He taught me to be determined no matter what obstacles I face and to never set limits for myself.”
South Stokes valedictorian Kayleigh Weavil said between the first day of school and graduation her class has matured into adults.
“Well, hopefully,” she laughed. “Today is a day full of emotions. Many students are overjoyed that their high school experience is over while some wish it did not have to end. Most parents are wondering how the time went by so fast. Parents, this is an exciting day for us because it’s the start of a new chapter in our lives therefore don’t cry because it’s the end because it’s only our beginning.”
The teenager thanked her mother and father for their guidance and love and challenged her peers to make their dreams a reality.
“Believing in yourself is the first step. It only takes one person to make a difference in the world so be the change you want to see. Be ambitious, inspirational, and compassionate to others. We each have the power to become anything we want with a little hard work.”
“We are the graduating class of 2015 from South Stokes High School and we have definitely left our mark. Even though we’re going in different directions after tonight we will be remembered at this school for years to come. No matter where life takes us, whether you decide to stay in Stokes County or travel the world, never forget where you came from,” Weavil said.
Amanda Dodson can be reached at 336-813-2426 or on Twitter at AmandaTDodson.