Gray Stone Day students ‘survive and thrive’ as they celebrate graduation

Published 2:46 pm Saturday, May 27, 2023

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Following four years of challenging academic rigor, overcoming a global pandemic and fostering countless memories and experiences, the Gray Stone Day School Class of 2023 gathered one last time Saturday morning in the gym for graduation.

These 87 students earned more than $3.4 million in scholarships and completed more than 2,400 hours of community service, volunteering their time at schools, churches, hospitals and many nonprofit organizations, said Helen Nance, chief administrative officer at the school.

“They are amazing,” Nance said.

Almost all the students are planning on attending college next year, at universities including UNC Chapel Hill, N.C. State, Appalachian State and Pfeiffer.

As they leave Gray Stone to go out into the world, several students reflected on what their time at the school has taught them.

“I think everyone is different and has their own unique thing they can offer to the world,” said Albemarle resident Lily Efird. She will miss “the friendships I have made along the way and my connections with teachers, because they have helped me a lot.”

Andy McLeod, a Gray Stone student since seventh grade, appreciates “the work ethic that you kind of have to have when you go here.”

One of his best memories revolved around sports, especially winning a basketball game his freshman year on his buzzer-beating shot.

Gray Stone graduates Lily Efird and Andy McLeod.

Dr. Natasha Boger, a structural engineer with SKA Consulting Engineers and 2008 Gray Stone graduate, talked to the students about advice her grandfather gave her during her graduation day: Remember who you are and stay focused on where you’re going.

“The best advice I can give you is to find good friends and build good relationships,” Boger told the class. “Who you do life with and who you place in your corner matters. Make sure you are choosing people that are chasing after their purpose just as hard as you are chasing yours.”

Boger told the students about the importance of experiencing new places and being open to where life takes them. As someone who grew up in Gold Hill and went to school at N.C. State, Boger made the decision to pursue a doctorate at Texas A&M University, though she had never been to the state.

“My choice to move to Texas for a brief portion of my life is one of the best decisions I have ever made,” Boger said, noting she “found a new love” for brisket and the convenience store Buc-ee’s.

“Whether it’s Texas, Florida, Alaska, Italy, Asia or South America, I pray that you explore some of the great wonders that this world has to offer.”

Katherine Jolly talked about how the Class of 2023 continually overcame many obstacles and the stress inherent with the hard classes they took at Gray Stone.

“If there’s one thing that I think really defines our class, it’s our 100% success rate and our reactions to stress,” she said. “Over and over, we braved the belly of the beast and kept moving forward.”

Jolly encouraged her classmates to stand up for what matters, move on from mistakes, stay in contact with their parents, and work hard, before concluding with lyrics from the music of Green Day: “I hope you have the time of your life.”

Katherine Jolly was one of three Gray Stone student speakers.

Corbin Barber told the class to “embrace the messiness of life that determines your mark on the world” and take risks in order to grow and learn.

“Long live all the magic we made because there’s no doubt that our class will be one for the history books,” she said.

Melah Melton joked that the graduating class had made it to the end of their sentence at the “institution of Gray Stone Day School.”

While it can be scary to head into the real world, Melton reminded the students that they had already conquered four years at a challenging high school.

“You survived and thrived at Gray Stone, which means you can now go out and be successful anywhere,” she said.

Nance presented Mary Prince with the Board of Directors’ Scholarship, which goes to a senior who exhibits personal integrity and exceptional service to others in the community.

Shortly after, the students walked across the stage and received their diplomas, threw their mortarboards in the air to loud applause and left Gray Stone for life’s next adventures.

They had not merely “survived and thrived” — they graduated.


About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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