South Stanly graduation speaker quotes Valvano: ‘Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.’

Published 2:16 pm Sunday, June 12, 2022

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Seniors of the South Stanly High School class of 2022 turned their tassels Friday in a graduation ceremony held on the school’s athletic grounds.

Principal Chris Jonassen kicked off the commencement exercises by congratulating the senior class and leading those gathered in the pledge of allegiance.

“Today is a momentous occasion in the lives of these graduates,” he said. “Graduates, commencement marks a milestone in your lives.”

Jonassen then recognized and thanked supporters of the graduating students, including parents, family members, friends, SSHS faculty and staff, and guests from the school board and central office.

Graduating senior Shannon Pacheco-Lujano welcomed guests to the ceremony and introduced the next two student speakers.

Student speaker Ethan Hatley, president of the school’s chapter of the National Honor Society, took the podium and opened his speech with a quote from former NC State basketball coach Jim Valvano: “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”

“This quote is something everyone should live their lives by,” Hatley said.

He explained how his senior class faced many obstacles during their time in high school, including administration changes and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were still able to accomplish many remarkable things,” Hatley said.

He went on to list several of the school’s accomplishments, including the return of the agricultural program and several sports championships.

“We kept going, and we never gave up,” Hatley said.

The next student speaker was graduating senior Jenna Faulkner, a student who held many leadership positions in the school including student body president, who began her speech by addressing her fellow seniors.

“I came to learn and enjoy many of your need personality traits that have made our high school years so enjoyable,” Faulkner said.

She continued by sharing the unique traits of several of her fellow students.

“This whole class possesses a drive like no other class I’ve ever been around,” she said. “We all had to work hard to survive these last four years, but we finished. We completed the hard work.”

SSHS teacher Michael Curlee was selected by the senior class to speak at commencement.

Curlee spoke to the class about how proud he was of their many awards and accomplishments.

“There’s a lot that this class has to be proud of,” he said.

Curlee also shared words of advice from several of the teachers, encouraging the students to be kind, do the right thing, be careful and never give up.

He then gave the students his own advice.

“First, understand that your life has purpose,” Curlee said. “There is no one just like you. Each one of you has something you can contribute.”

Curlee reminded the students that many events in their lives will be beyond their control, but that the way they respond to their circumstances will shape their future. He shared an incident from his life during boot camp that inspired him to change for the better and to do his best.

Curlee also encouraged the students to be loyal and faithful in the future, whether on the job, getting an education or dealing with family members and loved ones.

“Last, live your lives so that your legacy carries on long after you are gone,” Curlee said. “Live your life in such a manner that the mere mention of your name has a positive impact on your family.

“Remember the ones who got you here. Do not forget to thank them and tell them that you love them.

“Finally, I pray that God richly blesses every one of you.”

Following Curlee’s address, SSHS Teacher of the Year Austin Bennett read out the names of the graduating seniors as Jonassen, Assistant Principal Kelly Simmons and visiting school board members presented the students with their diplomas.

Once each student had received his or her diploma, Jonassen congratulated the seniors and instructed them to stand and turn their tassels, signifying their successful graduation.