GRADUATION 2024: A look back at Gray Stone Day School

Published 3:10 pm Saturday, June 22, 2024

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Gray Stone’s graduation was June 1. The following speeches were presented that day.

Amy Crystal Gonzalez-Hernandez

Can I have everyone with the name Michael in their first, middle or last name to please stand up.
(They stand up)
You may be seated. That concludes my mic check.
Good morning. I want to give thanks to all the parents, staff and friends here to celebrate the accomplishments of the Class of 2024. Your dedication and support have greatly shaped us as individuals. Your belief in our dreams has been our strongest foundation.
When I was near the end of the fifth grade my older brother approached my parents and I with information about a new middle school opening at Gray Stone. This seemed perfect in my parent’s eyes, but not so much for my 12-year-old mind. I thought of leaving friends, starting in a new school that wasn’t built yet, and a long car ride to get there.
When I first entered the commons, I didn’t see quite that many kids there as early as I was. But as a kid without a cellphone at the time, I had to do what seemed impossible. I had to talk to someone new. So with that, I approached a group of kids that had their Pokemon decks out and asked if I could play even with my lack of cards. That simple act of bravery, I took as a 12-year-old sixth grader, led me to seven years filled with memories, lessons learned and friendships of a lifetime.
To my fellow graduates, after today we will embark on a new adventure. Knights, we ride at dawn! Or more like noon today.
Some of us began our Gray Stone adventure seven years ago. Much like myself I also stepped into this school awaiting a new adventure. Some of us started our adventure with sixth grade half days.
Even with the lack of stability of not having our own classrooms, we persisted and eventually moved into our own school. Some of us had to start our adventure every year finding out that Mrs. Rinaggio would be our long-term substitute teacher, again. And then, she showed up freshman year as our legit biology teacher. We ended eighth grade via zoom, not returning to a brick-and-mortar school until nearly a year later.
In our years here at Gray Stone we have bravely taken on new challenges. Some of these adventures include:
• Our first presentation in Mrs. Rutherford’s class.
• Going to middle school around high schoolers.
• Surviving two tornadoes, huddled up in the hallway.
• Driving into the parking lot with kids that took Driver’s Ed online.
• Walking through Pfeiffer’s campus as a character from “The Canterbury Tales.”
• Trying to figure out how to work the “better” FAFSA.
My fellow Knights, we have donned our helmets and headed into each new experience with bravery. Seven years at Gray Stone has been filled with obstacles that we have overcome.
I believe that this class, the Class of 2024, is brave. We have embraced new opportunities, stepped out of our comfort zones and fought for what we believed in. The world needs brave Knights who dare to dream and act, who dare to lead and love. So reflect on your previous adventures, and continue to be brave. Thank You.

Mark Lappin

I crunched some numbers. The state of North Carolina requires 185 school days in a school year and Gray Stone has mostly followed that over the last seven years. So we’ve had more or less 1,295 days of school. If you want an even bigger number, we’ve put in just over 9,000 hours of school work. That is not even adding the hours we’ve spent at sports practices, participating in clubs, or crying over “Beowulf.” In that time, we’ve faced many challenges, like our ever-changing schedule, COVID-19 and getting into college.
Despite all of those challenges, we persevered. With our perseverance, we’ve created a resilient and compassionate community.
For me, this community we’ve developed means everything. A community can be represented through the knight’s chainmail. This idea is totally original and not at all taken from Mr. Hodges.
Each intricate link represents an individual and when all those links are conjoined it becomes a community that can handle the worst and thrive in the best. Chainmail is strong and flexible, despite the complex pieces that it is composed of. It protects the vulnerable parts of us, much like how a community does.
Without this community, we couldn’t have done amazing things, like becoming the first class to go through all seven grades here at Gray Stone.
When we all came together from nine different counties. I don’t believe anyone really knew how kids from so many places would end up interacting with each other. That’s the nice thing about not knowing how things will turn out, though, it leaves room to be surprised by what the class of 2024 would become.
We became a class that earned over $3.5 million in scholarships, volunteered over 3,000 hours of community service, and, obviously, lived up to be the best and coolest class ever to graduate high school.
Our accomplishments demonstrate the heart we’ve all developed with the help of our families, friends, and Gray Stone staff. Without the heart, the community we’ve made has no drive, identity, or strength.
Symbolically, the heart represents sensitivity, passion, gratitude, and connection. We’ve grieved the loss of our peers, demonstrated our intensity in athletic and academic competition, been thankful to grow together from the new middle school vision, and the connection we have with each other and the staff at our school.
As much as I would love to dive into how I see every characteristic of the heart shown in our amazing class, I think we would all like to go home at a reasonable time today.
In order to succeed, you need to have both a heart and a community to support you. If you don’t believe me, look at our college application essays. Could anyone here say confidently that they wrote their essay without the characteristic of heart? Yeah, probably not.
With heart and community, we can continue to become even better versions of ourselves. Take heart class of 2024, always remember this community we’ve built will be there for you.

Matayah Grubbs

As a school, we value honor. For each assignment we turned in over seven years, we wrote “on my honor…” at the bottom. When we first heard of the honor code, no one understood why we did it, yet today, we all recognize the meaning of that action.
Today, we know that the sentence we write on the bottom of each test or paper that we turn in is more than just words on a page. That it’s a symbol of the honor we bring into the world, making it a better place. That’s the value of honor: its ability to change the world. For many, honor can be described as adhering to what is right and just. The act of always doing what is right is not always easy, but you all have done this and, in the process, you have helped create a standard of honor at Gray Stone and in your communities.
One of the most important aspects of a knight is their honor. It has been an honor to be a part of this community. Studying alongside you all these past seven years has been a privilege that has shaped me into the person I am today. I am honored to have been able to call you all my friends, and some of you even family.
To my peers, congratulations on your immense amount of hard work. You have all completed each milestone to bring you here today and you’ve all honored those around you: be it your school, your teachers, your friends or your family. I am, personally, proud of each one of you. I recognize the time and dedication that you all have put into your education, leading up to this, one of the most important moments of your life.
In the seven years I have been alongside you all, I watched as you became the people you are. We’ve all changed and changed one another. As we grew up, we decided the people we wanted to be or the vocation we wanted to have.
Despite us wanting to achieve different things, we’ll walk some of the same paths. In a sense, we will all become astronomers, always hopeful for new discoveries that enrich our lives. We’ll be armorers, forging new ways to protect our honor. We’ll even become cartographers, paving the way for our own big adventures.
Regardless of where we are all headed in the future, I know that we will hold the years we’ve shared with one another close to our hearts. As you go on to be amazing people in the world, may you always stay true to yourself and remember that, deep down, you will always be a Knight.
When a civilian is knighted, a ceremony called an accolade is done. Today, you know of this ceremony as “dubbing,” but it stems from the Middle French word “accolee,” which means bestowal.
In this ceremony, a sword is tapped on each shoulder, signifying the honor knights will carry with them in the future. This honor was not only to their king, but it was to themself. The touch to each shoulder represents the only time a knight will be hit without fighting back.
With the conferment of the diplomas, today marks the day where you are officially knighted. When you’ve fulfilled your honor as a Gray Stone student, and you can embark on your journey into the world.
My advice to you all is to remember your honor to yourself. Never let life’s obstacles hit you without fighting back, but never be ashamed of experiencing obstacles, for Miguel de Cervantes once said, “the wounds received in battle bestow honor, they do not take it away.”
Regardless of what life throws at you, keep fighting, just as you’ve done to make it here today. Never deem something unattainable, because something is only impossible if it is considered as such. Never give up on your dreams, you are brave.
Follow your heart, because it knows exactly where you belong.
Do everything with honor, you are forever a knight.
Thank you.