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Class of 2017: Still following the footsteps after 25 years
By Charles Swenson
Amy Bashor was first in her class academically and alphabetically. “I remember being terrified because I needed to give a speech,” she said. “I’ve always been shy.”
When she stepped onto the stage at Waccamaw High School on the first Friday in June 1992 she began a tradition that endures a quarter of a century later. Bashor titled her valedictory speech “The End of the Beginning.” She remembers that it was brief. She also remembers what Etta Greene, the salutatorian, said. “She gave an amazing speech,” Bashor recalled. “There were tears in my eyes.”
“We are history, and many will follow in our footsteps,” Greene said. Among those were her two brothers, Brian in 2010 and Brandon who was one of this year’s graduates.
Now Etta Carter, the first salutatorian has been to Waccamaw often over the years, including as coach of the girls basketball team at Green Sea-Floyds High in Horry County. “I didn’t know it was 25 years,” she said before heading to her youngest brother’s graduation last week. “I don’t know if he knows or not.”
As Brandon waited in the cafeteria with his 179 classmates for the ceremony to start, he was focused on the moment, not the tradition. “I survived it,” he said. “It’s been a journey.”
For the youngest Greene, it was just school. For the Class of 1992, it was all about being first. The 56 grads started as juniors when the school opened in 1990.
The first valedictorian headed to the Honors College at the University of South Carolina. “I fully intended to go to law school,” Bashor said.
After her sophomore year, she took a break to join the newly-founded Corporation for National and Community Service. She worked on a navy base in San Diego, repaired trails, taught English and helped at a VA facility.
Law school was still her goal when she returned to USC. But she took a class in human resources in her last semester that changed her career. She was drawn to “the challenge of helping people be successful in the workplace.” She earned a master’s degree and worked for companies from Virginia to Washington State. She is also the author of two books about Disney World with a third on the way about the Legoland theme park. “Writing for me is an escape,” she said.
Bashor is now human resources manager for International Paper’s mill in Savannah. It’s the closest she’s been to her childhood home in Murrells Inlet since she left.
“You grow up and move away from home and discover over time what you’ve missed,” Bashor said. She is married with a 6-year-old daughter. “There are deep roots my daughter doesn’t have.”
Carter has kept her ties to the community and family in Murrells Inlet. She is director of adult education for Horry County Schools. She knew when she left Waccamaw High she wanted to be a teacher. But there were detours.
She worked for Chick-fil-A while at Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C. She stayed with the company for a few years. She returned home and worked for AVX while looking for a teaching job. She wanted to stay in Georgetown County, but Horry County had an opening.
“I’ll forever love Waccamaw High School,” Carter said. “My foundation was very strong.”
She and her twin sister Rhetta, also a teacher in Horry County, were standouts on Waccamaw basketball and volleyball teams.
“I’m not really into sports, I’m into music,” Brandon Greene said. Rap and hip-hop are his musical choices. He played drums when he was younger, but lost focus with age. “I didn’t stick with it,” he said.
His sisters are trying to guide him toward a career in music. “Use your talent for something,” Carter tells him. “A talent for words.”
“I’ve been on the radio for a commercial,” Brandon said. “It gets played on the radio every morning around 10 a.m.” It advertises Carter’s adult ed programs.
Greene wants to be famous. He will attend Horry-Georgetown Technical College this fall, an unspoken acknowledgement of something Carter noted 25 years ago: whatever your job, you need an education.
The idea still resonates for the Class of 2017. “I would like to remind the graduates that the education they received at Waccamaw High School is valuable, powerful and permanent,” Juliette Gammel, this year’s valedictorian, said in her speech. She urged them to stay focused and pursue their goals.
Or, as Amy Bashor once said, “reach for the stars.”
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