Girls on the Run founder addresses Gray Stone graduates

Published 10:37 am Tuesday, June 14, 2022

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After four years of challenges, both academic and social, the Gray Stone Day School graduates celebrated their accomplishments June 4 on the soccer field.

While high school principal Jeff Walter announced their names, Stephen Chambers, chairman of the board of directors, presented 89 seniors from seven counties their diplomas.

The students earned almost $2.8 million in scholarships and 96 percent are choosing to attend college in the fall.

Angelina Lappin introduced the guest speaker, Molly Barker, founder of Girls on the Run International, a running and life skills program, for 3rd-8th grade girls in 1996.

“Since founding the organization 26 years ago, the program, thanks to hundreds of thousands of volunteers, staff and supporters, has served over 2.25 million girls, I’ve been honored to meet hundreds of kids over the years; and they have taught me so much about all — the things,” said Barker.

Barker shared with the audience the top eight things she learned from working with kids.

The first story showed that “Sometimes in all that tension between trying to figure out what is really us and what is us just trying to fit in, we have to step outside our comfort zone and do things that show us what we are, by showing us what we are not.”

Another was “when Caroline fell during the Girls on the Run 5k in Chicago, and Nakia ran over to help her, and instead of continuing to run the event and maybe even win it, Nakia walked with Caroline the whole way instead. And the lesson? Our true nature is to help others when they are hurt or hungry or in need of something. At the core of our true selves, lies compassion and love, but sadly compassion and love sometimes gets covered up by competition, fear and separation. But the truth is, love is what we bring into the world, and hate is what we are taught.”

Wyatt Smith provided a welcome and Georgia Burleson represented the senior class to thank family for their support. Alexa Schauble sang “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus while Simon Butler played the guitar.

Sydney Griggs, Jobey Swaringen and James Moser were the student speakers.

Griggs spoke about the past.

“Your past does not define you,” Griggs said. “You define you. Make decisions and learn from the failures just as much as you learn from the successes.”

Swaringen talked about the future.

“We are transitioning into what is and will be our new life, regardless if we are going to school, or to work, we are experiencing change,” Swaringen said.

He said because of all the changes they had already experienced, they were ready.

Moser talked of the present and “to make the most of every moment, to seize the day and relish the opportunity of now — not yesterday and not tomorrow.”

The Board of Directors Scholarship was presented to Stephanie Varbanov, who plans to attend N.C. State University.

Chief Administrative Officer Helen Nance thanked Barker for speaking and shared that this was a special opportunity for her.

Barker is her sister.

“It is the first time we have had the opportunity to do something like this together,” she said.

Nance reminded the class of their eighth grade Crossing Over Ceremony when they received a journal to write about their high school years.

“I wonder if you still have it or if you actually used it,” Nance said. “I can imagine what would have been written there. You are an amazing group of students and I am very proud of you.”