HAMLET — In a ceremony punctuated by laughter and accolades, Richmond Early College High School launched 60 graduates from Cole Auditorium into a rain-soaked Friday evening.
At only 45 minutes from “Pomp and Circumstance’ to its brassy recessional, the ceremony included motivational advice from a member of the first REaCH graduating class (Marcus Campbell), memory-filled addresses from the salutatorian and valedictorian (Yash Patel and Patrick Hamilton), and a charge by principal Joy Smart that the Class of 2018 continue to be “fiercely determined to succeed.”
”You will make you happy,” Patel told his classmates before quoting the philosopher Dr. Seuss: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
For his part, Hamilton went with Winston Churchill, exhorting his classmates to leave REaCH with not just diplomas but with the both phrase and determination to “Never give up.”
Neither Patel nor Hamilton sang his message, as did Campbell — after introducing himself to the graduates by recalling that “the only thing I did (at REaCH) was sing.”
“You can make it,” he sang with an R&B lilt. “Hold on. Trust the process.”
Throughout the auditorium, proud family and friends snapped cellphone pictures, kept Mylar balloons captive and, mostly, waited until all 60 graduates had crossed the stage — shaking with their right hands, grasping diplomas with their lefts and grinning for the official photographer — to whoop and holler.
“I’ll miss the people,” graduate Madison Owen said outside the auditorium. “But I’m excited to do bigger things.” Owen will study pharmacy at the University of North Carolina.
Graduate Beth Hoffman also was excited but said, “I’ve worked so hard for this.” She will continue her studies at Richmond Community College, where she hopes to earn a nursing degree.
Parent Elizabeth Patterson was at the Cole to witness the graduation of the last of her five daughters, Jessica Murphy.
“She’s been a good girl, and I’m gonna miss her,” Patterson said. “It’s been great having her around.”
Then she made a tiny warble of distress before saying: “It’s going to be so sad.”
Students attend Richmond Early College on the RCC campus for all four years of high school, performing honors-level work. If they finish a fifth year at RCC, they earn associate degrees.
REaCH also is targeted to students underrepresented in post-secondary education, which may include those who would be the first in their families to attend college or those who fear college might be financially prohibitive.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]