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Class of 2011: Goodbye to Waccamaw

By Roger Greene
Coastal Observer

The countdown to graduation brought forth a range of emotions for Waccamaw High’s Class of 2011 on Wednesday.

As they gathered about an hour before the ceremony in the cafeteria, the clock seemed to be moving slow for some. To others, it was a surreal moment, with questions about whether or not they would actually be leaving WHS.

“It seems like it has taken a long time,” said Patrick Loftus, who is headed to the Naval Academy. “Especially the last couple of days. The last four days seem like they have taken four years.”

“This doesn’t feel real,” said Denver Gordon, who will be attending Winthrop University. “It still seems like we’ll be coming back to high school next year.”

Graduates greeted each other enthusiastically as they waited for the ceremony to begin, taking pictures, straightening ties and dresses and making any other last minute adjustments.

The wait also provided ample time for reflection.

“The time has gone by quick,” said Kayla Gulley, who is bound for Clemson University. “Everyone always said it would be that way, but you have a hard time believing them. When you are in seventh or eighth grade, you say to yourself, ‘Yeah, sure the time goes fast.’ Then, the next thing you know, you are here for graduation.”

“You’re kind of sad, but you are also very excited,” said Jacquie McMahon, who will attend the University of Alabama. “This is a special moment you get to share with your friends.”

McMahon was one of five Warriors receiving full college scholarships. The others are Heather Crabtree (Auburn University), Kyle Wentzel (Clemson), Chloe Spitzer (Converse College) and Lennie Janes (West Virginia University).

In total, 151 out of 158 graduates took part in Wednesday’s ceremony. The Class of 2011 attracted $3.2 million in scholarship offers.

This year’s class included three sets of twins: Dante and Dominic Giovagnoli, Jesse and Justin McClary and Jerome and Jessica Maybank.

An offensive and defensive lineman, Jerome Maybank is the first football player from Waccamaw to sign a Division I scholarship – he’ll play at Clemson.

Jessica Maybank was also an athlete at WHS. She played basketball and track.

“We were talking about graduation the other day,” Jerome said. “We’ve been together for 18 years. We’ve always pushed each other to do better. It will be hard to be apart.”

“I’ll miss him not being around,” said Jessica, who plans to enroll at South Carolina State University or join the military. “It will be tough, but I’ll be at Clemson whenever I can, especially during football season.”

Principal David Hammel, who has been at Waccamaw for three years, feels more connected to this class.

“When I got to Waccamaw, they were sophomores,” Hammel said. “This is the third year I’ve had with them and because of that I’m probably closer to them than I was to graduates in 2009 and 2010. These seniors have done an outstanding job of leading the building. This is a group of leaders, not followers. I expect to see some outstanding things from this class in the future.”

At 5 p.m., the seniors entered the gymnasium – filled with family, friends and well-wishers – to the familiar sound of Pomp and Circumstance, and were led to their seats by Bradley Adams and Jerome Maybank.

Valedictorian Lauren Loveless, who will attend the University of South Carolina Honors College, summed up the feelings of many in the room during her speech.

“We made it,” Loveless said. “Many of us have been together since the first grade. We’ve been with each other through the carefree elementary school days, through the awkward middle school years, and through the joy and heartache that our time at Waccamaw High has brought us.”

In her speech, salutatorian Rachel Harrison, also headed to USC, spoke of the seminal moment Wednesday marked in their lives.

“We will remember this day for the rest of our lives,” Harrison said. “And with that in mind, I sincerely hope that every one of you takes this moment to relish in this celebration of your success. We’ve attended high school as individuals, today, we leave as a singular class.”

Adams was the first graduate summoned to the stage by Scott Streiffert, a social studies teacher whose son Matt waited in the ranks of the senior class.

Adorned in his cap and gown, Adams moved across the stage from right to left, shaking hands with Hammel, Georgetown County Schools Superintendent Randy Dozier, Assistant Superintendent Celeste Pringle and football coach Tyronne Davis as he made his way back to his seat.

Roughly a half hour later, Hammel addressed the Class of 2011 for the last time. Tassels were turned, caps were tossed into the air and shouts of joy filled the gymnasium.

Then, the graduates stepped forward into the next chapter of their lives.

“I’m excited,” said Parker Cromley, who will attend Clemson. “I’m ready to make my own way and start something new.”

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