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'Record-setting group' turns tassels at Knapp

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Megan Love Culler receives her diploma from Principal Steve Basnight during J.P.Knapp Early College High School's commencement ceremony at College of The Albemarle's Performing Arts Center, Friday.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Saturday, May 19, 2018

J.P. Knapp Early College High School presented 86 diplomas Friday night to what Principal Steve Basnight called “a record-setting group of graduates.”

This year’s commencement ceremony, which was held in the auditorium of the Performing Arts Center on the College of The Albemarle campus in Elizabeth City, not only featured the largest class of graduates but also saw two-thirds of the graduates earn an associate degree, career diploma or career certification in addition to their high school diploma.

“This is a very special group of kids to me,” Basnight said in remarks at the ceremony.

Basnight noted that Knapp this year was ranked in the top third of all schools in North Carolina and the top 1.3 percent of high schools in the state. School officials also announced during the ceremony that for the third time in four years, U.S. News and World Report has named J.P. Knapp one of the best high schools in the country.

This year’s class also includes another first, as Mia Holmes heads to Norfolk State University with a full scholarship to play softball.

“It’s an honor to get to celebrate you tonight,” Basnight told the class.

The Rev. Terry M. Williams, an Edenton native who is the pastor of Englewood United Methodist Church in Rocky Mount, presented a keynote address in which he told the graduates the key to success is kindness.

“The strongest people in the world are the ones who intentionally show kindness to others,” Williams said.

Williams challenged the graduates to go into the world and reverse the current trend of unkindness — to get involved in rebuilding America’s democracy; to end the “scourge of the three isms” of racism, ageism and sexism; to volunteer as often as possible and to encourage others to be kind to all.

“Use kindness to carry you to the top rung of success,” Williams said.

The class valedictorian, Aryana Ortiz, told her classmates “I hope that you continue to surprise yourself with your accomplishments.”

The salutatorian, Tyler Little, asked the graduates to take a moment to recognize the school’s faculty and staff and their own parents and grandparents.

“Enjoy and be present in each moment,” Little said. “Laugh at your mistakes and love yourself.”

Jerika Pope presented the class gift to the school, which is a new podium.

Special recognition was given to Chris Alyea, who is retiring this year.

Graduate Joselin Addison said she will be going to the University of North Carolina at Pembroke next year, “pursuing my dream in musical theater.” While a student at Knapp she was in the COA presentations of the musicals “Oklahoma” and “Beauty and the Beast.” Addison has earned an associate of fine arts in theater.

“I really like just being on the stage,” Addison said.

Vincent Rice graduated Friday from Knapp and is planning on completing two more welding courses at COA — he already has finished six welding courses — before applying for a job at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard.

“It has been an interesting experience,” Rice said of his time at Knapp.

Rice said most people in his family work in welding or mechanical occupations.

“It was the perfect course for me,” he said of the welding program.

Leasha Turnbull graduated from Knapp and needs two more courses in the cosmetology program at COA. She is already looking at places she might want to work once she completes the program in the fall, she said.

“The staff is really supportive,” Turnbull said said of her experience at Knapp.

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