The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

June 12, 2013

Gray Stone graduates hear from Speaker of the House

By Kendall Atkins for the SNAP

Wednesday, June 12, 2013 — Gray Stone Day School had its commencement ceremony on June 7, graduating 66 students.

Student body president Catherine Harward welcomed the crowd to the ceremony, saying, “We are here tonight to honor the achievements of these 66 graduates, not only in the past four years, but the 13 long years of schooling.”

H. Earl Singletary Jr., chairman of the Gray Stone board of directors, stressed that learning does not end at graduation.

“To our graduates, as you embark on this new chapter of your lives, I would tell you that today is not an end to your education, but a beginning of all the things that you have dreamed of,” he said.

Senior Dustin Britt presented the Gray Stone Class of 2013 class gift, two picnic table sets, so that future students can enjoy lunch outside.

Senior Class President Elizabeth Harvell introduced the ceremony speaker, Thom Tillis, speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, who was elected to the House of Representatives in 2006.

Up until 2009, Tillis worked for IBM. Tillis is active in community service. He served on the town of Cornelius board from 2003-2005 and will soon be running for the U.S. Senate.

Tillis, in his commencement address, spoke about using everything that the students have learned as their foundation for a bright future.

“The opportunities ahead of you are amazing,” Tillis said.

Tillis told a story about a recent 5K with obstacles that he participated in. He didn’t think he would make it through the entire course, but his perseverance aided in his successful finish in the 5K.

“You’ll run into obstacles,” he said, “but I’m completely convinced that with all you’ve done here, that you’ve laid ahead of you now, your success at high school, that you’re gonna be able to take the experiences that you’ve gained here at Gray Stone and do wonderful things.”

Tillis said it is important for students to give back to their schools, their community, their state and more.

“Just always recognize,” he said, “that the learning that you achieved here, the experiences that you’ve achieved here, are what have laid the groundwork for a wonderful future for you.”  

Tillis recollected his own graduation day, and said, “This is your night, and I hope you enjoy it to the fullest, I hope that like me, you’ll remember it some 35 years later.”

Tillis gave his final words to the graduating seniors, saying, “I wish you all the very best and come back fighting hard in the fall. God bless you all, and I wish you the best of luck.”

Seniors Caleb Barnes and Kristy Williams performed a duet to “Change” by Taylor Swift. Barnes and Williams sang and played the guitar.

Class speakers William Howland III, Lea Efird and Rebecca Brickner gave inspirational speeches to their graduating classmates.

“Take only the fond memories with you,” Howland said.

“The memories and the sentiments which we choose to carry along with us, define our identities as we move forward in our lives.”

Efird emphasized that “the present is not something that is easy to explain,” as nothing exists except the present. Efird stressed making the most of every moment one is allotted.

Brickner told her classmates, “The future is ours for the taking.”

Gray Stone Chief Administrative Officer Helen W. Nance said that all 66 graduates will be attending college in the fall and have received almost $800,000 in scholarships. Nance said students were very active in service during their Gray Stone career. Students helped domestic violence victims, animal hospitals, food banks, children with special needs, juvenile delinquents and others.

“What an amazing group of people you are,” Nance  said.

Each year, the board of directors rewards a graduating senior, who exhibits integrity, responsibility and leadership, with a $1,000 scholarship. This year’s scholarship recipient was Darcie Herron, who plans to attend North Carolina State University in the fall.

Following Nance, graduates took their walk across the stage and were presented to the audience by faculty member Sheri Efird.

A reception was given for family and friends following the ceremony.

Kendall Atkins is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News & Press.