Led by faculty, staff, and junior marshals Ava Alvarez, Noah Carr, Abigail Garvey, Jergin Herboso and Percy Pearson, the students took their final walk as high school students as they walked to their seats.
Following the playing of the National Anthem, Ismael Padilla-Trevino welcomed everyone and took the opportunity to remind the students how CCTL had prepared each one of them for their futures.
“CCTL has provided opportunities, forged strong bonds and changed the lives of the graduates of 2022,” he said. “CCTL taught us how to be responsible, curious and manage our time along with other necessary life for college skills.”
Padilla-Trevino credited the faculty and staff of the school with creating an environment that ensured they not only got along, but that they were able to create lifelong friendships. He shared that the staff is nurturing, which helps the students to be able to talk and “build bonds with them to make learning fun, something to look forward to.”
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These relationships that have been built with classmates have changed lives, he noted, and they each benefit from this strong support system at the school.
“CCTL is more of a family than a school where no class stands apart, and the staff encourages us to strive for more and also pushes and provides the environment so that all students can learn, grow and succeed beyond their imaginings.”
Student speaker Rhilynn Horner shared what she felt made the graduating class and school so special. She began by talking about the school’s mascot, the dragon. And while she said none of the students resembled the dragon, it did however represent the school well.
“The dragon is named to serve as a guide,” Horner pointed out, “helping people find their own voice, discover who they are and who they want to be.”
She compared the students today to how they were when they first arrived at the school as freshmen, sharing that they were probably quite different. Horner looked back at all the scary presentations, the fear of being called upon and just having to get out of their comfort zones. And, she said, while they may not have seemed worth the anxiety, all of those things did help to change them.
“This school, the staff, the faculty, our classmates and all the projects and assignments we’ve had to do over the years have all acted as a guide to help us learn and grow into ourselves and I know that the lessons that we have learned here at CCTL will continue to carry us onward. It has taught us that it’s OK to be afraid of the new or of the change, but also to be excited and to have the courage to face change head on.”
Horner told the class that whatever path they took after graduation, each would be met with change and new things, but she encouraged them by telling them, “you are prepared and you are ready for whatever exciting challenges life may throw at you. Let what you learned at CCTL continue to act as your guide.”
Kolby Shea was the third speaker, highlighting the importance of the friendships made at the school. He took the class on a trip from their freshman year and the stresses of classes and the support they received from teachers who offered extra help when needed, provided resources and calmed them.
“This support made me realize at CCTL, the staff cared more about us than the grades, which makes this school different,” Shea shared.
While they gained a sense of comfort at the beginning of their sophomore year, he noted the second semester was the most difficult, but even with challenges, “we succeeded because of the compassion that surrounded us” from teachers, classmates, counselors and the principal.
When the pandemic hit and they experienced a time of isolation, Shea said that “the value of CCTL as a family became even more apparent.”
Classmates checked on each other, teachers were helpful and flexible, and a priority was placed on their mental and physical health, he said.
“Though we were far apart, it always felt like we were growing closer together,” Shea noted. And he pointed out a valuable lesson that he learned, “CCTL is more than a school, it is a home,” he stressed.
Following the speeches, Principal Teri Hutchens came to the podium and once again thanked everyone for being there and encouraged each to heed the words of the speakers.
She took a moment to recognize those students who were first generation college students and asked them to stand, which was met with cheers and clapping. Faculty members of CCTL were asked to stand as well, and she also introduced the distinguished guests who were on hand.
These included Dr. Tim Brewer, president of Mitchell Community College; Dr. Jeff James, superintendent of the Iredell-Statesville Schools; Dr. Boen Nutting, I-SS chief of strategic planning and student services; Dr. Daniel McEachern, vice president of student services, MCC; Todd Carver, chairman of the I-SS Board of Education; I-SS Board of Education members Bill Howell, Charles Kelly and Dr. Doug Knight; and MCC Board of Trustee members, Dr. Ralph Bentley, Dr. Steve Hill and David Meachem.
Hutchens then shared that she wanted to “talk about this impressive set of young folks in front of us today” as she noted that of the 49 graduates, 100% had earned their high school diplomas, 91% had earned associate degrees or would by the end of the summer; 100% had completed one certificate from MCC and 8% had completed two certificates from MCC; 39% had earned their high school diploma and their associates degrees in less than five years; approximately 3,000 semester hours of college credit had been earned as a class whereas in a traditional high school, a graduate would have earned between 0 and 12 hours; each student who completed their associate degree had saved their family or themselves approximately $30,000 in college costs or loans; the class had received approximately $1,8000,000 in grants and scholarships; spent countless hours participating in community service and clubs; and earned academic awards.
Of the students, she noted that 79% plan to continue their education at a university; 6% plan to continue their education at other endeavors; and 14% plan to enter the workforce.
Before the presentation of diplomas, Hutchens gave the class a final word of encouragement when she told them, “you have developed many skills that will take you far in life. We challenge you to step forward, try to challenge yourself and try to make a positive difference as you have here.”
The names of the 49 graduates were read with each going forward to receive their diplomas, were greeted by the special guests, presented with a rose and a final photo was taken before they were declared 2022 graduates, which was met with lots of cheers from students, family and friends alike.