Overcoming adversity, striving for success among graduation themes

June 14, 2017
The Warren Record

Warren New Tech High School held commencement exercises for its 36 seniors Saturday afternoon.

Keynote speaker Jane Ball-Groom, a workforce development expert, geneaologist, author and early employee of the 1970’s Soul City New Town project, gave the Class of 2017 workforce statistics and told them that jobs were waiting for them.

She challenged them to know who they are as individuals, be engaged and communicate, have a purpose and vigilance, dream, write down their dreams and make them their goals, and to have passion, leadership and creativity.

“This is your journey; there’s no stopping you now,” Ball-Groom said “You already have the tools for the road.”

Salutatorian Breanna Sikes shared reflections on the unique experiences of her class and said that New Tech gave her the close-knit feeling of family.

She thanked her teachers, parents, two brothers and sister for their support, and said she looked up to her sister, who was the first person in the family to graduate from college.

Sikes asked her classmates to focus on time, failure and future. In addressing time, she recalled situations she had shared over the years with classmates and called it ironic that she should mention failure at a time the class was celebrating one of its greatest accomplishments. Sikes said that failure could be a great teacher and motivator.

“Because of obstacles, we’ll be better prepared to overcome the trials and tribulations that await us,” she said.

Regarding the future, Sikes said she was excited about everyone’s potential and couldn’t imagine the conversations that would be had when the classmates gather for their 10-year reunion.

She left her class with three things: “savor the moment, learn lessons from every failure and always make the future brighter than your past.”

Valedictorian Makayla Richardson expressed pride in being a member of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe as she focused her farewell speech on her identity.

She said that she had learned some of life’s greatest lessons during high school and couldn’t have done it without her family’s support. The most important of those lessons, she said, was to never give up and always strive for the top.

“As an American Indian female, I faced numerous challenges such as discrimination, racism and prejudice just because of my race,” Richardson said.

According to statistics and some people in society, she said that she was more likely to drop out rather than graduate from high school and attend college.

“But today, I stand before you proud and resilient,” Richardson said.

She said she never allowed anyone to define who she would become or what she was capable of and that she had learned the importance of balance in life.

“Even when things got tough, I always found ways to bring a little bit of positivity to my world,” Richardson said. “When people doubted my ability … I proved them wrong consistently.”

She said she wanted to be the person who demonstrated to others that you can be successful no matter what society says about you.

As a class … we have also remained true to ourselves, and that’s what makes me so optimistic about the future of this class,” Richardson said. “We are proof that hard work pays off, and we have worked hard to overcome adversity.”

She left her classmates with challenges including to be proud of their heritage and to keep striving for success.

Christopher Hunter, a 2011 WNTHS graduate, sang the National Anthem. Class Secretary Boyd Scott, Jr. conducted a moment of silence, and Kayla Henry, class president, introduced Ball-Groom and presented her with a gift from the class.

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