Cadets graduate from Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy

Published 10:07 am Monday, March 18, 2019

Graduates were encouraged to “celebrate your accomplishments” and to “be a mentor” as the latest class of the New London Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy received diplomas Friday at the Stanly County Agri-Civic Center.

“This is a great day,” said N.C. Rep. Wayne Sasser (R-Stanly), the program’s guest speaker.

“I thank you for the help you have given me,” he added, noting the academy’s color guard had participated in his recent inauguration, and that 20 TCA students (five from New London) had served as legislative pages in Raleigh during the body’s most recent sessions.

Sasser congratulated the class members for their resolve and determination in completing the 22-week TCA program.

“Thank you for your perseverance and dedication,” he said. “Today is a day to celebrate what you have accomplished, but I’ve got some bad news, too … you need to start tomorrow figuring out what you are going to do with the rest of your life. It’s your decision, so what are you going to do with it?”

The importance of using one’s time wisely, in addition to giving back to others, was also emphasized.

“All of us here have the same amount of time … 24 hours in a day,” said Sasser. “Are you going to use that time to work hard? Are you going to listen to those who have been your mentors? And are you going to be a mentor to others?”

Sasser closed with a quote reminding the graduates of the importance of a proper attitude, and issued a challenge to the entire class.

“Life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we react to it … we are in charge of our attitudes,” he said, quoting Charles R. Swindoll.

“In the future, I’d like to see one of you, one of today’s graduates, come back and stand up here giving this graduation speech,” he said. “That’s my challenge to you.”

Following the address, retired Lt. Col. Maury A. Williams, academy director, presented Sasser with a framed certificate of appreciation. In turn, Sasser presented Williams and TCA with a state flag which had flown over the state capitol building in Raleigh.

After presentation of diplomas to 23 female and 86 male graduates, Cmdt. Cassandra Stephens presented Academy Excellence Awards to two high-achieving cadets.

The Gerald A. Rudisill Leadership Award, granted to the cadet who demonstrated outstanding leadership ability, was presented to Nohemy Cristoval.

“The cadet receiving this award exemplifies good character, knowledge, life skills, ethics, courage and trust,” Stephens said.

Jordan Bodie-Kelly was presented the Director’s Award, which Stephens described as being conferred upon the cadet “showing the most outstanding leadership, community service, physical fitness, academic achievement and life-coping skills.”

Caleb Redmon presented the response on behalf of his fellow classmates.

“I speak on behalf of all the cadets when I say that we sincerely thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Without you guys, meeting this challenge would have been impossible,” he said. “I believe TCA has given me a chance to see the real world, which, as it turns out, is exactly what I needed.

“TCA has given all of us a second chance to be a leader … a second chance to show who we really are,” Redmon added.

Emily Rose, chairwoman of the Cadet Advisory Board, followed Redmon in directing the graduates in the turning of their tassels.

Williams recognized the volunteer mentors who will work with graduates in the academy’s 12-month post-resident phase, as well as the TCA staff.

He closed the commencement by encouraging graduates to live their lives in ways that exemplify the values learned at TCA.

“Be honest, do the right thing, respect yourself and others, react to failure in the right way and always make your family your first priority,” he said.