City to host Memorial Day event
The Surry Early College graduation was held Friday evening in the gym on the campus of Surry County Community College.
The Early College graduating class was not the largest class that will cross a stage in the coming weeks, however there was still an impressive amount of both scholarship dollars and certifications for these graduates. Graduates from the class of 2021-2022 received scholarship offers totaling $3,937,455.
Principal Colby Beamer advised that assembled friends and family that a four-year college or university is on the horizon for 43 of the graduates. Many students are staying in state and in the UNC system.
Community college is the chosen path for eleven of the graduates with several staying local to attend Surry Community College while nine of the graduates are planning to enter the workforce directly.
One student, Evelin Lara, took the road less traveled and will be joining the armed forces after graduation.
Today’s students are being given opportunities that graduating classes of decades past did not have. They are also not feeling the same firm push toward the four-year college system that had been identified for many years as the best path to future success and to improve one’s station in life.
Beamer reported these students took advantage of these opportunities with 43 of the graduates receiving not only their high school diploma but also an associate degree in arts, science, general education, and fine arts. Also, two graduates will receive their applied associates degree in science.
“It’s not often you can go get a post-secondary higher education degree before you get your high school diploma. What a wonderful opportunity this is,” Surry Community College President Dr. David Shockley said.
Fourteen graduates will earn diplomas or certifications in various applied degree programs such as accounting/finance, firefighter, mechatronics, automotive technology, community Spanish interpreter, and business administration.
“I’m here to tell you that is not normal, that is something very, very special,” Shockley said of the graduates before handing out recognition to Beamer and the teachers at the Early College for achieving a 100% graduation rate on behalf of the board of trustees of Surry Community College. Recognizing the Early College for this success, he said, “is becoming an annual thing.”
He told the crowd what it takes to get such an honor. “It’s pretty easy, perfection. It’s not excellence, it is perfection – you have to achieve a 100% either a test taking grade, or if it’s in a credential program… you have to have 100% students pass that examination of the first attempt. If it is an inspection or an audit, you have to receive a perfect score in order to get a resolution.”
Britza Chavez-Arellano was the Senior Speaker who noted that the pandemic slowed down life and made it feel like time stopped. She said however that “with time stopping we learned new things: who we are, who our real friends are, understood true resilience, learned how to properly procrastinate. The most important thing I learned how precious time is. This is such a treasurable moment in time for all of us.”
“I have already seen such a beautiful fire in our graduation class. We are successful in our own ways, and I am so proud of all of us. I may not personally know what you had to go through to be here today, but I am so happy to see you all here.” She went on to note how surreal it feels to be graduating and encouraged her fellow graduates to, “keep that fire burning, no matter what the cost.”
The Super Senior Speaker was Matthew Gillespie who jokingly warned the crowd that Beamer gave him no guidelines for his speech. The first draft he threw out because he had written a speech that he thought was not relevant anymore. “Then I realized we are all here because we have done that. I don’t need to tell you what you already know and have.”
Instead, he laid out the three most important things the graduates are taking with them with the diplomas and certifications being the least among them. Those documents are nothing more than “a bond of trust” from the institution that the graduates have the knowledge and skills needed. Documents and diplomas “can only get you in the door of where you want to go, it will take the other resources to get you there.”
Possession of the actual knowledge and skills from the Early College will be the second thing graduates carry on. Covid made these kids grow up a little faster and “the perseverance you have shown to get here will be something you have to call upon in the real world to succeed,” he told the crowd.
Interpersonal connections round out what the graduates take with them, and he encouraged his fellow graduates to keep learning and make new friends in college for those going that route. He encouraged students to stay in touch with one another and their teachers for they may make valuable allies later down the road.
Senior Class President Nancy Garcia-Villa gave the farewell address to the students in which she reminisced about the past 12 years and her own struggles. “I’ve heard numerous times that an education is not only the key to success, but also the answer to so many of our world’s problems.
“But, when states care more about our test scores than the mental and physical wellbeing; when teachers and staff are underpaid, and schools are severely underfunded to the point where you don’t have proper facilities or enough textbooks; when you have to continuously fight for institutions to be diverse, global, and inclusive because those spaces were not always welcome ones for all; when students of color are already branded by expectation of failure before they can even try; and when I spoke up about issues that students like me experienced and was invalidated by the people I trusted, I couldn’t help but wonder if school and an education was truly the solution.
“But I do see its promise and I call upon people in power to act whether they are school authorities or policy makers, I call on them to act. … I ask for your help on dismantling the issues that are deeply rooted and injustices in our education system. Give us the resources that we need to learn and create safe and inclusive spaces where students of all backgrounds and needs can flourish.”
Garcia-Villa, bound for UNC-Chapel Hill in the fall, also thanked those who helped get her there, naming several teachers who helped along the way.
“I want to recognize the new immigrants who walked miles in the blazing heat so we could walk across this stage today. And those who fought their way across turbulent rivers, so we can fight for a better future. Our immigrant families came here with nothing – they gave us everything. That isn’t magic – its innovation, its resilience.”
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