GRADUATION 2024: A look back at Stanly Early College

Published 3:06 pm Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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Stanly Early College’s graduation was May 23. The following speech was presented that day.

Callie Ball

Good afternoon, my name is Callie Ball and I’m here to share some of the many memories that I have gained while attending Stanly Early College High School.
High school definitely was not easy for us. For the seniors, we had to start our high school experience online and partially in person wearing masks and having limited personal and/or peer contact. For the super seniors, they had to go online halfway through their freshman year so they went through the same thing, only they had a much more hectic time of it because it was the middle of the school year.
One of my favorite things to look back on from freshman year is the way our classes got to really know each other. Because we were split into A and B days, our classes were at most nine kids; I believe mine was six people initially. Once Mrs. Shankle was able to return from maternity leave to be our English I and II instructor, English became a favorite class for me. We had presentations on animals and countries and books and Greek mythology, some group presentations but mostly solo.
My particular block had lunch in our English class; it was our last class of the day, so we got to take off our masks and actually have conversations with each other while we were eating. I don’t know how many times we would joke about the characters in whatever we were reading like the guy who slashed at the ocean with a sword or Cyrano de Bergerac or Oedipus Rex.
From science presentations with Mrs. Michele Smith to having a substitute teacher in English for the first three months to NiJae’s spoiled milk backpack incident in Math class to reading lines for plays with half the class on Google Meet and the other half in person to working on Civics assignments and poems for English outside, 2020 was a crazy but fun and enlightening year.
Once we got to sophomore year, things began to get more normal. We got to get more involved and actually meet the other people in our grade. We did quiz bowl and blood drives and fall fest. We also got to start taking college classes. I have vivid memories of getting out of physical education and going to go play volleyball in the blazing heat and or even rain as I did with my best friend Lani a few times. After volleyball we would have to go to math sweating like crazy.
We also took our preACTs that year and who can forget the biology EOCs and the many books and plays we covered in Mrs. Ross’ English III and IV classes.
Fast forward to junior year, it feels like we just started high school but also like we’ve been there forever. That was the year we took Spanish with Mr. Ubaldo, Me encant6 estar en tu clase, and chemistry with Mrs. Serenity Smith, 6.022×10^23 — Avogadro’s number.
Once we made it to senior year, life started getting more real. Aside from our economics class in our second semester, we were fully college students. Some of us overloaded our course load to try to gain as many credits as possible before transferring to another institution or college. We also were able to work on or in trade programs like welding or nursing or cosmetology.
A few of us went to conferences for Future Business Leaders of America and competed in competitions against other college students state-wide and even placed and/or won some of them. We had Phi Theta Kappa and the National Honor Society. Some of us, a good few in fact, completed the Global Distinction program with UNC Chapel Hill.
There was also the student government association at Stanly Community College of which I am proud to say was 60% Stanly Early College. I was the secretary, Lani Pope was the public information officer and Timothy Karabet was the treasurer.
We may have had an extremely unique high school experience that started out a little rocky, but I wouldn’t change it because it led us to where we are today.
I would like to end by thanking everyone who helped make our time here at SEC interesting, fun and one of a kind. We couldn’t have made it to where we are today without each and every one of the people present in this room and/or with us in spirit so thank you.

Emma O’Neill

Today is a day of celebration, a day that marks the culmination of years of hard work, dedication and persistence. As we gather here to celebrate our graduation, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of pride for what we have accomplished together. Each and every one of us embarked on a unique journey, and yet here we are, united in this admirable achievement.
Today marks a significant milestone in our lives, one that we should all be very proud of. We started this journey as anxious freshmen, unsure of what our future would hold. But through the ups and downs, all the late nights of studying, and all the moments of triumph, we have grown into the capable individuals we are today.
As you all may know, our class was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We all felt the effects of this obstacle differently, but one thing we all had in common was having to develop a new way of learning. Adapting to online learning brought along many challenges and changed the way we interacted and studied. Thankfully, we did not walk this path alone.
Without the guidance and unwavering support from our wonderful teachers and staff, I don’t know where we would all be today. Let us honor our achievements and bid farewell to this chapter of our lives, as we have all worked very hard to get ourselves here. As we know, the road ahead will be filled with challenges and uncertainty. However, it is in these moments of uncertainty that our true character is revealed, where our resilience and adaptability shine the brightest. My fellow graduates, I urge you to dream boldly and to pursue your passions endlessly.
Whether you are entering the workforce or continuing your education, I hope that you never lose sight of the wonderful gifts and talents that you bring to the world. Finally, I would like to express the utmost gratitude to all of those who have supported us along this once in a lifetime journey- to our families, teachers, friends, and mentors who have believed in us even when we doubt ourselves. We are all eternally grateful for your support and your belief in our potential.
As we embark on this new adventure filled with new opportunities and potential, let us face the future with courage, persistence, and a belief in ourselves. Congratulations, Class of 2024, let’s go out there and make our mark on the world, one awkward encounter at a time. Thank you, and may the job offers be ever in your favor!

Lani Pope

Good evening! My name is Lani Pope, and I am deeply honored to have been selected to give the distinguished graduate address for the Stanly Early College High School class of 2024. A special family member of mine, my grandmother, once said “It’s the simple things in life that mean the most.” While that may sound cliche, it is easy to overlook its significance in our daily lives. Reflecting on that quote, a certain image, or a short story really, is brought to my mind. Imagine a serene moment as you’re standing on a mountain and overlooking a deep ravine. You glance down and notice a small stone, so you pick it up. In your hand, you hold the stone, seemingly insignificant. Yet, as you toss it into the ravine and it disappears from your view, you hear it ricochet and touch the water below.
That stone may be small, but it can create ripples that extend far beyond what meets the eye.
Today, I’d like to speak to you about the power of our simple actions to create ripples of positivity in the lives of those around us.
Each of us has the ability to be a catalyst for change and to uplift others through simple gestures of kindness and compassion.
I invite you to take a moment to think of someone, one person, who has had a positive impact on your life. Perhaps it was a teacher who believed in you, a best friend who supported you, or a family member who inspired you to be a better person. Now, imagine knowing that you were the one person that someone else thought of. What an incredible honor it is to know that we’ve been blessed with at least one impactful person, and we have the potential to be that one for someone else.
Reflecting on my time at Stanly Early College, I’ve realized that amidst the busyness of life, it’s easy to forget to express gratitude to those who make our journey special. I often become engrossed in my schoolwork, striving for top grades on assignments and aiming to make a positive impression on my teachers. While these efforts are important, focusing on them too heavily can cause us to neglect what truly matters.
At the beginning of high school, we each have our own aspirations and dreams, and we are eager to better ourselves. We are prodded to pursue our future goals and pushed to focus on a single career path, but it isn’t just about achieving success for ourselves.
Yes, we have accomplished so much, become more confident and honed our skills, but in that process we have overlooked a fundamental truth: that our journey has never been a solitary one. We are interconnected, and our lives are intertwined with those around us. It is in recognizing and honoring these kinds of connections that we find a sense of belonging and purpose. We must focus on allowing our gifts and talents to make an impact, regardless of how small that impact might seem to us. A simple act of kindness or a compliment can make a world of difference to someone else. Whether it’s through our work, our relationships, our community service or simply our daily interactions, let us strive to be a source of positivity in the world.
For example, when I transferred to Stanly Early College, I was nervous because I was coming in as a sophomore rather than a freshman like everyone else. I had a supportive friend group at my previous school, and I wasn’t sure if I would find the same kind of connection here. However, I was proven wrong. In these past few years, I have been blessed to meet friends who have made my time here unforgettable and the idea of graduation bittersweet.
We’ve talked for forever in the Webb Center. Some of those conversations were deep, but the majority were about the most completely random topics. We listened to music together in the library.
We’ve struggled with math and science labs for hours. We’ve sat through many Student Government meetings and attended FBLA Collegiate Conferences, and through all of that, I realized that I wasn’t excited to go to school just because I was eager to learn. I came here because I found a handful of people, who through simple actions, have made me feel special, appreciated and heard, and for that, I am truly grateful.
To all of my teachers and the staff who have made this day possible and been there for me throughout my journey at SEC, thank you.
Shoutout to my sophomore English teacher, Mrs. Ross, for welcoming me during my first year at the early college and being an amazing mentor ever since. Also, a special thank you to Mrs. Weeks for keeping all of us graduates on track with scholarship information and upcoming events.
Thank you to my Student Government and FBLA advisor, Mr. Hazlett, for seeing something in me before I ever did myself and continually giving me opportunities to grow personally and professionally.
I’d like to thank all of my friends, especially my best friend Callie, for standing by me not only as a friend but a sister through the ups and downs of high school.
Most of all, thank you to my family, specifically my parents, because I would not be standing here if it weren’t for your continued support and belief in me.
To my fellow graduates, as we begin this new chapter of our lives, may we remember to be that one person for someone else, as these people were to me.
My grandmother unfortunately passed away a few years ago, but I will always remember the lessons she taught me and the memories we made. Again, “It’s the simple things in life that mean the most” … the small stones that no one thinks to pick up because they seem insignificant compared to the mountain of accomplishments we are standing on now and the mountains we are about to climb.
As you reminisce on all you have accomplished so far, try to look for those small stones and be an encouraging person for someone else. That should always be our goal. It isn’t a tangible goal like obtaining a diploma or a higher position at work, but it’s still something that we should strive for each day. Give someone an unexpected compliment or ask how their day has been, not just to hear the word “good,” but to actually listen.
Every action and every choice that we make can create a positive chain reaction that we may never know about. Let us make people feel special and not just heard but actively listened to. Let us never forget the impact we can have on each other’s lives so we can look back and never regret a single moment.
Together, let us create a ripple effect of kindness that will resonate far beyond our time at Stanly Early College. Thank you.

Early College graduates:

Katherine Aparicio Diaz
Callie Ball
Luca Benigno
Danielle Bisson
Callie Burris
Darrien Coble
Riley Dennis
Katie Doby
Arielle Enamait
Savannah Faircloth
Sara Flores Cruz
Heather Fox
Olivia Friguglietti
Anyia Harrell
NiJae Hicks-Williams
Brooklyn Huggins
Ty Ingram
Ximena Jaimes Jaimes
Alyssa Johnson
Kennedy Laney
Gavin Mead
Ashlee Miller
Emma O’Neill
Grace Oke
Lani Pope
Chloe “Connor” Richards
Kaydence Roberson
Karley Russell
Riley Scott
Colby Smith
Kyle Smith
Hailey Taylor
Rhiannon Trent
Owen Trull
Grace Wang
Lexi Watts
Tess Whitley
Rachel Wright
Grace Yang