Thursday morning, May 9, was a historic one in Stokes County. The first graduating class of the Stokes Early College High School crossed the stage at Calvary Baptist Church in King to receive their diplomas. There were 27 high school graduates, 25 of whom were poised to also receive their associate degree from Forsyth Technical Community College that same night.
“We’ve been called trailblazers, because we did something no one else wanted to do,” declared class president Christian Edwards.
These students who finished up five years’ worth of early college work in just four were part of a 48-member pioneer class of the SECHS back in August 2009. Dr. Gary Green, president of Forsyth Tech, was on hand to make comments to this first class in Stokes to partner with his institution and do both high school and college work at the same time.
This first graduating class earned over $300,000 in scholarships and grants for higher education. Their valedictorian, Sydney Cromer of King, had a 3.99 GPA and will attend UNC-Wilmington to major in psychology before applying to medical school to become a psychiatrist. The salutatorian, Gabrielle Lindsay of King, maintained a 3.92 GPA and plans to major in nursing and minor in psychology at Winston-Salem State University in the fall.
Stokes County Superintendent Ronnie Mendenhall addressed the students with congratulatory words: “You are a part of history forever in Stokes County … I call you trailblazers, eager to make their mark in the world, and make the mark you have.”
SECHS Principal Steven Hall encouraged the graduating class to strive to improve themselves and the world around them and to give back. “Never lose the spirit that led you down the road less traveled by,” he quoted from the school motto.
Sen. Kay Hagan sent a letter congratulating the graduates, as did Sen. Richard Burr. Dr. Stewart Hobbs Jr., superintendent of Yadkin County Schools, was present at the ceremony and recognized for being one of the early proponents of the SECHS when he was Stokes County Schools’ superintendent.
The students had requested that Brian Ford, a mentor who had helped conduct leadership conferences for their class, be the keynote speaker. He congratulated the graduates for being overcomers and for being diligent.
After a special video presentation and an original song performed by class members Willie Byrd and Drew Dobson on guitar, senior Ashley Gupton read the Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken.” The last verse culminates in the motto that this first SECHS graduating class embraced as their own:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.”
Full story will be available online soon and in the May 16 edition of The Stokes News.