For the class of 2012 at Leak Street High School, June 7 was hard-fought and long-anticipated. Thirty-three students turned their tassels Thursday night, all looking forward to their future plans of four year degrees, two year degrees and/or military service.
Sheriff James Clemmons Jr. gave the commencement address, and encouraged students to remain focused on their goals.
“Today, you take your final walk as a student,” Clemmons said. “Now as we watch you walk out of here into the sunset, I encourage you to remember what you are setting out to accomplish.”
Students and parents at Leak Street High echoed sentiments shared by Clemmons. Ashley Hines, class valedictorian, expressed her excitement as she prepares to embark on her future. Hines will attend Winston Salem State University in the fall to major in psychology. She wants to pursue a master’s degree upon completing her undergraduate studies.
“This feels so good. All of the hard work paid off,” Hines said. “Nothing was given to any of us, we all had to earn it.”
Leak Street High School’s Class of 2012 included a number of firsts. It was the first class to take a true a senior trip, and the first class to graduate four Native American students. It’s also the first class, since the school transformed from its previous alternative structure in the spring of 2009 and began graduating students, to have more than thirty students graduate.
Graduates Ashley Hines and McKenzie Blanton, along with academic coach Tina McNeill, presented commemorative gifts on behalf of the class of 2012 and the Leak Street High School parents to Superintendent George Norris and Leak Street High Principal Daryl Mason for their support of the students’ senior trip, graduation projects and all efforts made to help each student complete his or her graduation requirements.
For Mason, commencement represents a special time to celebrate how students have overcome numerous obstacles to make it the graduation milestone. For many of the students, Leak Street High School represents a unique second chance.
“It was a struggle at times to persuade many of these students to persevere and do what they needed to be successful,” Mason said. “We were able to see 33 students meet their graduation requirements, 33 students who probably wouldn’t have graduated if not for this opportunity. To watch students go from not caring, to becoming focused and engaged in school is an amazing experience. It’s almost magical when it finally clicks for them, that ‘yes, I can graduate’.”
Shelia McNeill, of Hamlet, beamed as she reflected on the experiences of her son, Monte Smith.
“I’m just so proud that he finally decided to do what was most important,” McNeill said. “Regardless of what people said or thought, he made the extra effort to go above and beyond what was expected for him. I’m excited that he’s made decisions about his future, on his own, and I know he will do great things.”