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Waccamaw High: Largest senior class in school history takes the stage

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Scott Streiffert has been studying the pronunciation of names in Waccamaw High School’s senior class for tonight’s graduation. He doesn’t want to spoil the big moment for a graduate or family.

Streiffert is working hard on one member of the Class of 2016 who goes by “Lily” to her schoolmates: Punohuolalani Lilianna Dew. Streiffert planned to have phonetic spellings available for Lily Dew and a few others when he calls graduates’ names at the ceremony scheduled tonight at 7 o’clock in the school’s gymnasium.

Principal David Hammel expects this class to be Waccamaw’s biggest ever with 190-plus graduates. The Class of 2012 had 186 graduates, he said, but it was a class with an unusual amount of turnover that started with 236 members as freshmen. This year’s senior class has been more stable, he said, and will set another record for scholarship money. He will announce the total at tonight’s ceremony.

Senior Amelia Jones said she was torn between getting the ceremony over and trying to soak it all in.

Streiffert, who teaches seniors in his social studies class, said he sees enthusiasm build toward the big day that ends with the realization that it’s time to go to work or mow the grass. “I try to encourage them to enjoy the process and everything that goes with it,” he said.

Tonight’s ceremony will be special for senior Mikey Knowlin, son of Monica and Mike Knowlin. He will be the first son from his family to go to college in August. Knowlin hopes to walk on as a 250-pound fullback for South Carolina State University football team. He said he set his mind on college in 10th grade. “I was going through a lot of stuff, like getting in trouble,” he said. “I had to get myself together, get my mind right.”

Knowlin said members of the senior class were close, “like brothers and sisters,” and avoided the drama that others seemed to produce. “That made a lot of people want to stay and achieve bigger goals,” he said.

Transitions program teacher Mary Tester said her program at the high school will have four graduates: LarShaun Sessions, Nicholas Krause, Devonte Cohens and Skyler Jersek. “They have been looking forward to this,” Tester said. “It’s a big group. I’m very proud of them.” Tester teaches handicapped students life skills in her class with a goal of full-time employment for the graduate. Krause has a job with Goodwill Industries, and Sessions works at Pawleys Island Tavern. She said Cohens would have been going to work too, but his family is moving.

“Other kids in the class look up to these four,” Tester said. “These are the first two I’ve had with jobs. We are really coming along with that goal.”

Class President Lora Gahagen-Eddy said the senior class will be remembered for three state championships — girls cross country and track and field and boys golf — along with academic achievements and having fun. “I think we are all really excited, ready to get out,” she said. “It hasn’t hit us yet that we won’t be together again.”

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