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Albemarle High School awards diplomas

By Shannon Beamon
Staff Writer
Graduation is always a bittersweet moment, a time when memories mingle with hopes. And for Albemarle High School, that proved especially true this year.
On one hand, it was a triumphant moment. During their ceremony at the Stanly County Agri-Civic Center, 83 senior Bulldogs walked across the stage, carrying with them 62 college acceptance letters, $1 million in offered scholarships, eight N.C. Scholars recognitions and three military enlistments.
“We did it,” graduate Samaria Lilly said in her welcoming address. “This moment shows how we can accomplish our goals when we commit ourselves to them.”
But on the other hand, it was also a moment of good-bye. A good-bye to Friday-night lights and the teachers who cared for them. A goodbye to a favorite English class, and to homecomings and to proms, salutatorian Sara Thomas added.
“Perhaps (one day)… you’ll even think of that class you wish you had tried harder in, you’ll long for one more dinner with your parents interrogating you about your day,” she said. “You’ll think about all those nights you spent with your friends that have gone… how nice it was to be a clueless 14-year-old… those drives down 24-27 at sunset.”
High school is as much memory as milestone, the other speakers agreed. Trials that shape as much as a future to be shaped.
And this year, perhaps more so than most.
AHS graduate Camryn Hamilton lost both his sister and mother in the past semester, a tragedy that has echoed through the entire senior class. Personal injuries also made graduation questionable for Camryn, but on Saturday he walked across the stage nevertheless.
As he did so, the entire senior class came to its feet to cheer both him and his cousin Kelan Hamilton across the stage.
“It’s true, life is short, but it’s also filled with great love and joy,” valedictorian Chizong Vang said in his speech.
And after seeing how both memories and trials shaped lives at AHS, all the more reason to look forward with hope, Vang added.
“I believe nothing is impossible,” he said. “The only time something is impossible is if you give up before you even try.”
Superintendent Jeff James commissioned the senior class to see graduation in the same light. Not as something easy or steady, but as an ever-changing moment to embrace.
“It cannot be assumed for a minute that what was done or assumed yesterday will be viable tomorrow,” James said. “A person who endures unexpected hardships and challenges and yet emerges with an undefeated smile and humble attitude is a great leader.”
And as each student made their way across the stage with a dance or a wave, there were certainly plenty of smiles at what lay ahead.
“We will try, we will succeed and we will make the world a better place,” Vang said.

Photo by EARL BRADSHAW
Camryn Hamilton displays his diploma following graduation. Hamilton lost his sister and mother this semester.

Contact Shannon Beamon at 704-982-0816 or shannon.beamon@stanlynewspress.com.