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Waccamaw High: The Class of 2014
By Jason Lesley
Waccamaw High School valedictorian Jacob Hawkins said he got some advice about his speech to the graduating class during commencement exercises Friday in the school gymnasium: Do not quote Dr. Seuss.
He ignored it.
“With brains in your head and feet in your shoes you can steer yourself in any direction you choose,” Seuss said in his poem “Oh, the places you’ll go.” “You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go...”
“I’m here to tell you,” Hawkins said, “you are not on your own” and quoted the 23rd Psalm that begins “The Lord is my shepherd.”
Hawkins told his fellow graduates not to fear the future. “Do not let the world limit the place God has for you,” he said.
He told his fellow graduates that life is about relationships and they should cherish the relationships made at Waccamaw High School. Hawkins said all members of the Class of 2014 are Warriors. “My grades don’t qualify me to hand out advice,” he said, “I only ask you to seek God and ask him to guide your path.”
Salutatorian Guerry Green told his fellow graduates they had earned the right to be ultimate Warriors. “We’ve become strong as a class,” he said.
The Class of 2014 learned the importance of faith, he said, whether it was faith in God, faith in family or faith that a pep rally would postpone a test. Class members learned the bitterness of loss. Classmate Cameron Ahalt died in 2008 of heart failure at a Scout rodeo. “We are looking forward to the day we’ll see you again,” Green said.
Hawkins remembered Ahalt in his speech too. “I assure you,” he said, “Cameron is watching this ceremony right now and Jesus is handing him his diploma.”
Waccamaw High Principal David Hammel told members of the graduating class they were awarded a record $4,787,000 in scholarship money.
The graduates arrived for the ceremony in a downpour Friday afternoon. They gathered in the school cafeteria to put on their robes and mortarboards and take pictures of themselves.
“It’s exciting but weird,” said senior Robert Jones, “to think this is the last time we’ll all be together like this.” Jones will go to Clemson University in the fall and hopes to make the running team and participate in cross country as well as track and field.
Seniors Brianna and Alex Mawra were joined by their sister Jackie prior to the ceremony. The triplets enrolled in Waccamaw Elementary School as third-graders. They are the daughters of Nancy and David Mawra of Pawleys Plantation. All have chosen their own paths. Jackie graduated two weeks ago from the Governor’s School with a degree in visual arts and plans to study architecture at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Md. Alex said she enjoyed social studies at Waccamaw High and plans to study sports, entertainment and event management at Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte. Brianna said she enjoyed learning languages, especially Spanish and French. She’s going to the College of Charleston to study business and hospitality.
Student body president Imani Atkins welcomed parents and friends to the commencement exercises. “It’s time to move mountains, break barriers,” she told the graduates. Photos were set to music as a senior class tribute. The project was done by Steve Robson and Jeffrey Steel with the help of seniors Katlyn Chandler, Victoria DuMont, Alex Hight, Tristan Hood, Queasha Nelson, Will Ness, Ma’Laysha Nesmith, Evan Parrotta, Eric Silvestri, LeAnn Thompson and choral director Sylvia Warr.
The graduation audience remained almost totally silent during the ceremony, just as Hammel asked. Thunderous applause followed the awarding of the final diploma of the class of 177.
Questions for the valedictorian
Jacob Hawkins has been No. 1 in his class since ninth grade. He said his friendship with the No. 2 student, Guerry Green, helped them both excel.
The son of Valerie and David Hawkins of Litchfield Country Club, he will attend the U.S. Air Force Academy and study aeronautical engineering. He already has his private pilot’s licence. His goal is to become a test pilot and make the Air Force his career.
Q. You’re only the seventh male valedictorian in 22 years at Waccamaw High. Are girls smarter than boys?
A. No, I do not think so. I think it might be easier for guys to get sidetracked with other things. Guys don’t mature as fast women. I think that might be a problem.
Q. Was there a lot of competition to be first in your class?
A. Everyone in our grade is really smart. There was definitely a lot of competition, stressful times. I’ve been No. 1 since ninth grade. I was just trying to keep my lead.
Q. What drives you to succeed?
A. God blessed me with a great mind and I, to bring pleasure to him and make him happy, I believe that you should do everything 100 percent to the best of your ability. Since God blessed me with so much, I think it’s only fit that I use what he blessed me with.
If I didn’t end up No. 1, I still would have been happy because of that.
I got my pilot’s license. I was in a program called Civil Air Patrol. Same thing. I got in there in eighth grade and I was like, “I’m going to do the best I can.” I got to the highest position in Civil Air Patrol, the Spaatz Award. There’s only been about 1,900 awards in the last 50 years.
Q. What’s a subject you struggled with in school?
A. Anything art related. Anytime in high school I got an art project, I kind of cringed. I can’t draw. I play guitar. I like music, but I’ve never been able to draw or paint. I still tried my best.
My two favorite classes in high school were probably chemistry and statistics. I just loved the teachers and I loved the atmosphere in the classroom.
Q. Who is a teacher that had an impact on you?
A. There are so many. All of the teachers at Waccamaw High School do care about you and your future. It’s hard to pick one.
I’d say Ms. Noyes, my chemistry teacher. She had a good influence on me. She would push me, give me alternate assignments to look up when I got home. I would ask her questions about stuff that’s deeper than the actual scope of the class.
Q. What are the qualities that make a good teacher?
A. They’re really compassionate. They really care about the students and what they can do to make them better.
Q. What’s the last book you read for fun?
A. I read more than one book at a time. It was either “The Sound and the Fury” by William Faulkner or “The Count of Monte Cristo.” I can’t remember which one I finished last. I wanted to read some of the classics so I bought them off Amazon for a penny. Used books.
“The Sound and the Fury” was a very difficult book to get through. About a third of the book is told through a mentally retarded person. He skips around. He doesn’t have a sense of time. It was a tough read. I enjoyed it.
“The Count of Monte Cristo” is just a great story of revenge. It’s really cool.
Q. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
A. Hopefully, I have a career as a pilot in the Air Force, a test pilot. I really want to be flying. If not, hopefully I’m still working around planes. I want to have a career in the Air Force, a good 20, 30 years. There are just so many benefits of being in the military. It’s a great lifestyle.
Q. What’s one thing you would change at Waccamaw High?
A. I wish that there wasn’t so much pressure on the students grades-wise. I wish school was actually more about learning something than the grade you got on tests. As soon as you start putting grades on things, students start doing whatever they can to get those grades, whether it’s moral or not, ethical or not.
Because we put grades on things and because we assess every single detail of how someone’s learning, it hinders peoples’ learning experience and doesn’t allow them to retain the knowledge. They’re too freaked out about tests and what their grade is going to be at the end of nine weeks.
Q. What’s your advice to incoming freshmen?
A. Don’t let the high school experience get to you. You’ve been alive for about 13, 14 years and you’ve been raised by your parents and you need to stick to your values. Ask God for guidance, not let all the activities that go on in high school make you slip up.
I don’t believe that peer pressure is actually a thing. People have the power of choosing. If they actually want to do something, they’re going to do it. If they don’t want to do it, they sincerely don’t want to do something, they won’t, no matter how much people are pressuring them. I think peer pressure is just an excuse.
It’s really up to you what you do in high school. Don’t get in any trouble.
Q. Anything else you’d like to add?
A. I’d like to put in there that I have a strong faith in Christ and that my parents have raised me to believe in God. I believe that it’s important to have a relationship with Him.
Questions for the salutatorian
Motivation is the key to success, says Guerry Green, the salutatorian for the Waccamaw High Class of 2014. That’s the lesson he took away from four years of high school.
The son of Fran and Guerry Green, he will attend Clemson University’s Calhoun Honors College in the fall. He plans to major in finance and have a career in investment banking. “I’ve always been involved in business and liked looking at the stock markets,” he said.
Q. Is academic success valued at Waccamaw High?
A. Most definitely. The teachers provide an environment that encourages you to succeed and do your best. It’s all about promoting you and realizing your potential. They have a good way of analyzing you and what you can do and they strive for you to take the best classes that challenge you.
Q. How hard did you work in school?
A. I worked pretty hard, a lot of long nights studying, doing work. I should have not waited up until the deadline.
It was easy, but I definitely had to put a lot of effort into it. I had to be self-motivated. For instance AP U.S. history. I liked the subject, but the curriculum was very strenuous. I had to put in a lot of effort to read the chapters.
Q. Tell me about a lesson learned outside school.
A. Having a strong faith and background. I’ve grown up in a Christian family and community. I’ve always been strongly influenced by the church and spent many Sundays acolyting and lay reading. I’ve always felt Christ in my heart and had a sense of guidance from that.
Q. What’s something that you would like to learn, but haven’t learned yet?
A. More about the different trades. I work at [Georgetown Landing] marina after school and on weekends and find I have not always been very experienced with construction. It’s something that I have been able to develop, but would have liked to have had a start for that in school.
Q. Who is a teacher who’s had an impact on you?
A. Can I list two? The first would be Sharon Bray. She’s always emphasized if you put in the hard work you get the grade you deserve. You’re able to retake tests as many times as you want. She would do that so you have to keep studying until you get the grade you want.
The other one is Coach [Scott] Streiffert. He has a strong interest in economics. It’s been easy to relate to him. His school spirit is very inspirational.
Q. What’s a book you would recommend to another student?
A. “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand. It’s a story of ups and downs and how in the end a relationship with God can unlock any barriers.
Q. What do you do for fun?
A. I always liked the outdoors a lot through Boy Scouts and I spend a lot of time hunting and fishing. I’m an avid outdoorsman. And I spend time on the beach and the river with my friends and my family.
I spend a lot of time involved in the school. I’m a member of Key Club, National Honor Society, Spanish National Honor Society, student council, academic team, bass fishing team.
Q. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
A. Hopefully, I’ll be able to define my own success, have a family and have a prosperous career in investment banking.
Q. What surprises you when you look back at your four years at Waccamaw High?
A. How the community atmosphere has brought us together. Individually, we are strong. Collectively, we’re all the more impressive.
Q. What advice do you have for a new student at Waccamaw High?
A. Make the most of it. Be prepared to acquire all the tools you’ll need to be successful in life.