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Cap and gown: Waccamaw High Class of 2013 departs … after a pause

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Waccamaw High School’s senior class arrived early for graduation Wednesday. There was plenty of time for hugs and pictures before they had to zip up their black robes and straighten their mortarboards for their final obligations.

Though they may not have realized it, the minutes before they walked into the school gymnasium to the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” would be the last time they would be together, really together.

“It’s going to be weird,” said senior De’Quan Funny.

These alpha boys and girls, the seniors who had dominated life at Waccamaw High since last August, were disbanded when school principal David Hammel pronounced them high school graduates at the end of commencement ceremonies. They rushed to the cafeteria to get their real diplomas — they were handed only the leather cover during the ceremony — and suddenly it was over. Members of the Class of 2013 were on their own, to make or break their lives using the knowledge they had been given at Waccamaw High.

Salutatorian Bryce DeChamplain said her classmates were living their own fairy tales.

“These are our stories, our struggles, and eventually, our happily-ever-afters,” she said. “And because these stories are ours, we’re special. We may or may not know it yet, but it’s true. And as we grow, we’ll only get more incredible.

“While we may not know where we’re going to end up, we’ve been given some tools and training by our mentors that will help us get there. We weren’t always aware we were learning. Sometimes we resisted a lesson, but our mentors persisted. They even stayed by us in our setbacks. For that, we thank them.”

She told her classmates to be “brave enough to do things that scare you, love yourself enough to stop, and hope that others do the same” before wishing them all good luck.

Valedictorian Austin Meares told his classmates to be proud of their accomplishments.

He cited teachers Julie Humowitz for teaching that history is made by people like Lewis and Clark, coach James Brown for pushing students to work hard and Sharon Bray for drilling into their minds the importance of persistence when confronted with something new.

“Seniors,” Meares said, “we have had high expectations placed on us for the past four years, and we have lived up to them. As Warriors, we have risen to meet academic, athletic, and artistic challenges. We have won state titles, earned high grades, and served countless hours for our community. No doubt, we have proven ourselves capable of great things. As we move forward in the coming months, it is important that we continue to apply ourselves to the best of our ability.”

Mitchell Saum had the pleasure of announcing that members of the WHS Class of 2013 had won $3,161,933 in scholarships.

A video created and edited by Sarah Cook, Emily Almond and Holly Mettlen provided a trip down memory lane for members of the class. Seniors were kings and queens and champions in athletic competitions. They wore fake moustaches for giggles and black and red war paint for school spirit. There were tuxedos and evening gowns for the prom. Boys dressed in cheerleader costumes, and girls played flag football. Geeks and freaks mixed right in.

By this time, it must have dawned on the Class of 2013, life will never be like this again. Things will never mean so much. “It’s a bittersweet good-bye,” said the words of a song played over the public address system, “but I’m not going to cry.”

There was one student missing. A rose on the stage Wednesday was for a classmate who died in 2011, Ian Freeman.

Scott Streiffert, a teacher and coach, began calling the names of the 134 graduates with Conner Elizabeth Adamson, and she walked across the stage to receive congratulations from Superintendent Randy Dozier, Assistant Superintendent Celeste Pringle, Hammel and Tyronne Davis, and assistant principal. The audience was polite and dignified except for a few outbursts until Streiffert called Adrian Rhodes and stopped. That left Jaynae Rice standing at the edge of the stage.

He took a couple sips of water, followed by silence. The audience grew restless; the mood was lost. The graduation ceremony had run out of diplomas.

Not the real diplomas with names neatly inscribed. They would get those in the cafeteria after the ceremony.

Officials ran out of the leather binders they handed to each student as a symbol of their diploma. Minutes ticked off the clock in silence until Brian Henry, the sound technician, played the theme from “Jeopardy.” He followed that with the theme from “The Pink Panther.”

Boxes of diplomas were found, and the ceremony returned to form. Members were congratulated and pronounced official graduates of Waccamaw High School’s Class of 2013. Mortarboards flew into the air. And the recessional signaled the beginning of the end.

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