GRADUATION 2023: ‘Don’t be afraid to take risks’: Albemarle’s Class of 2023 graduates

Albemarle High School seniors walked across the stage on the football field Friday night as a part of commencement exercises.

Senior and summa cum laude graduate Mary Grace Krol was the first student speaker of the ceremony. She said being an Albemarle Bulldog “is more than being a mascot on a shirt or a jersey. It seems as if it’s a target on our back.”

“As soon as you become a Bulldog, it feels like you get this negative label, no matter what amazing things we’ve accomplished,” Krol said. “We tend to still be perceived with this image just because we go to Albemarle.”

The senior said by being at Albemarle, “nothing just gets handed to us. We typically have to work 10 times harder than anyone else to get the stuff we need. We’ve gone through more principals than we have years in school, and it seems as if we always get the short end of the stick in everything.”

Hard work from the students tends to go unnoticed, she added, saying bad news “will spread like wildfire throughout Stanly County.”

Krol said Albemarle students have had to prove themselves “countless times” and are seen as underdogs both in academics and athletics.”

She said being a Bulldog “is not a weakness but a strength. We have been tested and challenged in ways that other people can’t even begin to imagine. We have emerged stronger and more determined than ever, with the ability to change the world. We live in a time with so much hate and negativity, but we have the power to make a difference in the lives of those around us.”

Krol said as she and her fellow graduates “finish writing our story, remember: we are the ones with the pens.”

Jennifer Torres, who opened the ceremony by singing the national anthem, spoke next. She said her heart “was filled with so many different emotions today.”

“There is a universal truth we all have to face, whether we want to or not: everything ends,” Torres said. “As much as I looked forward to this day, I’ve always disliked endings.”

“Today, we say goodbye to everything that was familiar, everything that was comfortable,” she said. “We’re moving on … as you go out into the world, remember that you are not alone. You have a support system of friends, families and mentors who believe in you and will be there for you every step of the way.”

Torres also said to her fellow graduates: “Don’t be afraid to take risks and try new things. Failure is not a setback, but rather an opportunity to learn and grown.”

The keynote speaker was Amy Crisco, a registered nurse and member of Albemarle High School’s Career and Technical Education staff.

Crisco said each student “has left a permanent mark at Albemarle High School, and for that we are grateful … you have discovered learning is not confined to textbook, but is rather a lifelong journey of exploration and self discovery.”

Principal Dr. Robert J. Wingate spoke just before diplomas were presented. He noted the Class of 2023 had seven NCHSAA state championships, two team conference championships and more than $2.4 million in scholarships.

“Keep striving; never give up on your dreams,” Wingate said. “Let your light shine bright like a diamond.”