Stanly Academy graduates ‘a mighty force to be reckoned with’

With a message of never giving up and facing down obstacles in life, Central Elementary’s auditorium hosted the graduates of the Class of 2024 of the Stanly Academy Learning Center.

Four graduates (Dy’Zavious Bivens, David Gould, Lleraldin Rebollar and Rikeyvia Wingate) took part in Thursday’s commencement exercises, attended by Stanly County School Superintendent Dr. Jarrod Dennis and members of the Board of Education.

Karen Nixon, principal of the Stanly Academy Learning Center, presented diplomas to the graduates during the ceremony, and Miss Stanly County Outstanding Teen 2024 Lena Preslar sang the national anthem to kick off the festivities.

Dr. Melissa Smith, the former Central Elementary principal who also worked for SCS as its Director of Community Engagement and Dropout Prevention, gave the keynote address.

Melissa Smith speaks at the graduation of Stanly Academy Learning Center. (Photo by CHARLES CURCIO/staff)

Smith, who earned her doctorate this year in Educational Leadership from UNC Charlotte, told the graduating class, “as I look at you, you are small in number but you are a mighty force to be reckoned with. This world better watch out.”

She further said the grads were “strategically designed for success,” adding the graduates “eat failures and setbacks for breakfast. You don’t let them eat you.”

Smith encouraged students to challenge themselves and said “failure does present opportunity to learn the lessons life has to offer you. You can turn despair into hope.

“We’re all going to experience negativity, and we’re going to face obstacles…every obstacle you overcome, it will add strength to your life every single day.”