‘Don’t stop here, Class of 2018’

Graduation sends 180 IRHS students into the world

Look out, world. The Class of 2018 is coming for you.

A weekend of torrential thunderstorms, followed by a morning fog and power outages cleared into a perfect spring night, just in time for Indian River High School’s graduation on Tuesday, May 29.

IRHS Principal Michael Williams began his first IR graduation by thanking the maintenance staff who made the outdoor ceremony possible.

He also marveled that, of the 179 graduates, about 84 percent chose post-secondary education; 12 percent will enter the workforce; and almost 4 percent will go into the armed forces.

“Standing in front of you all, I see nothing but great leaders heading into the future with a lot of potential. … I’m proud of you all,” said Class President Fabrea McCray-Conner. “Walking into school every day was easier, knowing I was a part of a smart, athletic, talented and motivated group of teens who wanted nothing but the best for themselves and others.

“Wherever life may take you, always stay true to yourself,” McCray-Conner added. “Don’t stop here, Class of 2018. Keep moving forward. Go River!”

She and other students repeatedly thanked the parents, teachers, staff and coaches who guided them through their journey.

“Good teachers move extraordinary people to do extraordinary things,” said guest speaker Salome “Principal El” Thomas-El, a lifelong educator and head of the Thomas Edison Charter School in Wilmington. “We’re hard on [you] now so it’ll be easier in life.

“Building resilient children … is about teaching them to respond when they are not successful. How do you come back when you don’t hear what you want to hear? How do you come back when you are rejected? … Do you stop working hard, or do you say, ‘You know what? This just means that I’ll go on to the next step.’ Just understand it’s the struggle and the battle to get there that has made you successful.”

He spoke about the students who don’t have it easy, the women who keep things going and the men who stay involved in their families.

“Today is the beginning of an opportunity for you to create a way for you to provide for your family and your community,” Thomas-El told the students. “Come back to serve others because leadership is about service.”

“Don’t forget where you came from. You came from Indian River High School,” echoed Superintendent Mark Steele. “And to all of you: four years from now, we would love to see you come back, join the alumni association, be strong in our community and make our community even stronger.”

“There will always be someone who is proud of you,” said Delaney Brannon, salutatorian and senior class vice-president, “and the worth of a situation may come from how it makes you stronger, even if things don’t go as planned.”

“We may have made fools of ourselves in the best/worst way, but those high school memories are unforgettable. All of us have come a really long way these past four years. You’ve grown physically and mentally, and you should be proud,” said Valedictorian Priya Patel. “I can confidently say that each and every one of you has the potential to flourish.”

Patel said success isn’t about wealth, social status or grades.

“It’s determined by the achievement of your goal. … Each one of you is talented and remarkable in your own way. Find what you love, and follow it to glory, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them.”

Including Patel, the top 10 academic students were recognized: Delaney Brannon, Kennedy Butch, Dahria Kalmbach, Nathaniel McCabe, Ryan McCoy, Emily Tharby, Samantha Whelen, Isabel Wolfenbarger and Jewel Yanek.

In a surprise announcement, the six winners of the IR Pride Scholarship from IRHS Alumni Association were revealed, including Brannon, McCabe, Whelen, Yanek, Joud Dabaj and Mackenzie Webb.

The graduation song was the acapella “In My Life (It’s Been Unwritten),” arranged by graduate Kennedy Butch.

Although the students all wore green and white robes, creativity sparked color through the crowd. The graduates had decorated their mortarboards with paint, glitter and flowers; green and gold; inspirational quotes; beloved poetry and characters from childhood; future career and college plans; and family photos.

As the ceremony ended, each of the caps was flung into the air, celebrating the completion of high school and good things to come.

See a full photo gallery at www.coastalpoint.zenfolio.com.

By Laura Walter
Staff Reporter