ROCKINGHAM — A decorated U.S. Army veteran congratulated 47 students on graduating from Leak Street High School in his commencement address Thursday at the school’s Kate Finley Auditorium.
Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Capel is a native of Ellerbe and has served in the Army for more than 30 years in various capacities. Capel encouraged students to make the right choices as they enter into a new stage of their lives.
Students and parents at Leak Street High echoed the sentiments Capel shared. LaSummer Bruton, class valedictorian, expressed her excitement as she prepares to embark on her future.
“We have all faced stepping stones and will continue to even after we leave here today … ,” Bruton said. “… I must say, being a teen mom and going to school is very difficult. It has been a challenge for me, and I missed days of school because of my responsibilities as a mother. Meanwhile, I have watched my classmates face many of their own challenges. One obstacle we all share is overcoming the negativity of people believing we would not make it to this day. Well, guess what? On this 12th day of June, we have beaten the odds and proven them wrong.”
During the course of the evening, Bruton was received the Lillian Sherrill Memorial Scholarship, the Leak Street Alumni Scholarship, the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship, the Eckerd Adolescent Parenting Program award and the President’s Award.
Also receiving the President’s Award were seniors Christen Bloomfield (salutatorian), Desmond Gould and Lisa Wayne.
Leak Street High School’s Class of 2014 reflected on a number of events within the past few years — including a slideshow created by teacher Chad Osborne. The school also recognized senior Quanterus Collins, who was affectionately nicknamed “Mr. Leak Street.”
Chief Operations Officer Daryl Mason and Tina McNeil addressed Class of 2014 graduates in their final moments as seniors.
“Although these students are graduating, this is not the time to abandon them,” Mason said to the parents who cheered in the audience. “They still need us.”
Principal Susan Brigman noted that high school represents happiness, a sense of pride and accomplishment amongst children and their families. For many of the students, Leak Street High School represents a unique second chance.
“You always have a choice,” Brigman said to seniors. “You can choose to let the noise of your peers’ opinions drown out your inner voice, or you can have the courage to follow your heart and do the right thing.”