DUDLEY - Senior class president Carson Daly calmly and confidently walked up the steps to the podium.
This time, however, the baseball standout didn’t carry a baseball bat.
Instead, he delivered a timeless message that encapsulated four years of high school - not only for him, but his classmates.
As he looked toward his fellow Southern Wayne High School graduates, he saw a class that had persevered, a class that became a family and a class that succeeded in a world forever changed by a pandemic.
“When I think of our class, I don’t think of hardships,” Daly said. “We may have faced them, but they do not define us. You are here today because you persevered, no matter what challenges and hardships you faced.
“After today, some of us may never see each other again. We will always remember the memories we made [as a family] with each other at Southern Wayne High School.
“[And] when I look out at the crowd I see success in the future - community leaders, future businessmen and women, future CEOs and future tradesmen that will run and lead the workforce in the coming years.”
After Daly’s speech, Principal Kevin Smith handed out nearly 250 diplomas to one of the most diverse and academically-talented group of seniors to walk the halls at Southern Wayne.
Almost one-third of the seniors graduated with honors.
“My classmates, it is time to spread our wings into the next chapter of our lives,” said Jose Velasquez Castellano, who is one of 25 North Carolina Academic Scholars at SWHS.
“Although I have no idea what the future holds, there is a great world out there and it is does not wait for anyone. It is up to you to take the first leap into the unknown.”
Due to wet field conditions, the ceremony took place in the school’s new gymnasium - a $6 million facility that officially opened in December 2020.
Summa Cum Laude: Lisbeth Ambriz-Torres, Carson Blane Daly, Jonathan Dylan Higginbotham, James Gavin Hinson, Bailey Danielle Jones, Morgan Grace Kennedy, Ryan Major Norton, Abbey Marie Parker and Randy Rojas.
Magna Cum Laude: Sarah Jane Benning, Jacqueline Alexander Calderon, Ariyona Andrace Core, Jaekwon Jaiden Ellis, Kiara Jean Kornegay, Osvaldo Ochoa-Lara, Edwin Perez-Perez, Madison Ryeleigh Simons, Erica Renee Sutton and Jose Daniel Velasquez Castellano.
Cum Laude: Jonathan Avila-Calderon, Jarvis Mekhi Brehon, Tanner Thomas Brock, Andrew Bruce Cox, Samira Deus Herrera, Madison Raelyn Holmes, Jeffrey Dallas Howard, Kelly Jackelyn Lorenzo Cabrera, Tiffany Renee Outlaw, Luis Mario Padilla Rico, Zachary Ashton Rose, Sara Michelle Statler.
Honor Graduates: Lisbeth Ambriz-Torres, Domonique Artis, Johnathan Avila-Calderon, Zachary Ball, Miguel Baltazar-Munoz, Thomas Bauer, Sarah Benning, Jarvis Brehon, Tanner Brock, Jacqueline Calderon, Arizona Core, Andrew Cox, Jared Creech, Carson Daly, Kayla Dearman, Samira Deus Herrera, Kayla Edgecomb, Jaekwon Ellis, Ricardo Flores Gonzalez, Angel Flores-Onate, Paulensky Francis, Nehemias Galvez Hernandez, Sarah Game, Karen Gonzalez-Gutierrez, Kadarius Hall, Quentin Herring, Jonathan Higginbotham, Imari Hill, James Hinson, Madison Holmes, Jeffrey Howard, Raymond Hyde, Bailey Jones, Morgan Kennedy, Kiara Kornegay, Nataly Lopez, Rosto Lopez Elias, Kelly Lorenzo Cabrera, Ja’Quel McNair, Kelsey Millard, Karen Morrisroe, Marian Neira Nieda, Brittanya Norris, Ryan Norton, Osvaldo Ochoa-Lara, Tiffany Outlaw, Luis Padilla Rico, Abbey Parker, Edwin Perez-Perez, Logan Person, Johnnie Robbins, Randy Rojas, Zachary Rose, Estrella Sanchez Ruiz, Emashara’e Seaberry, Madison Simons, Xiomara Soler-Sanchez, Sara Statler, Erica Sutton, Garrett Tucker, Genesis Vasquez, Jose Velasquez Castellano, Yermi Velazquez-Velazquez, Tania Villalta-Mujica, Quetzafy Westbrook and Anthony Williams Jr.
North Carolina Academic Scholars: Lisbeth Ambriz-Torres, Jacqueline Calderon, Ariyona Core, Carson Daly, Jayla Edgecomb, Jaekwon Ellis, Nehemias Galvez Hernandez, Karen Gonzalez-Gutierrez, Jonathan Higginbotham, James Hinson, Madison Holmes, Jeffery Howard, Bailey Jones, Morgan Kennedy, Ryan Norton, Osvaldo Ochoa-Lara, Abbey Parker, Edwin Perez-Perez, Randy Rojas, Zachary Rose, Emashara’e Seaberry, Madison Simons, Sara Statler, Erica Sutton and Jose Velasquez Castellano.
Marshals: Georgia Fulghum (chief marshal), Gavin Simons (assistant chief marshal), Mark Anderson, Noah Barrett, Madison Blizzard, Laci Capri, Austin Cartagena, Aniya Harvey, Medjina Joanis, Caroline Jones, Nerchka Maxi, Emma Proctor, Anna Summerlin, Catherine Summerlin, Bethany Tadlock, Reagan Waller and Kaitlyn Whitley.