180 Panthers pounce toward future

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Olutayo Richard Afolayan returns to his seat after receiving his diploma at Pasquotank County High School's graduation ceremony in the R.L. Vaughan Center at Elizabeth City State University, Friday night.


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Friday, June 8, 2018

Pasquotank County High School graduated an “extra special” class of 180 Friday night in a ceremony that emphasized gratitude and respect.

“There’s something extra special about this class,” said interim Pasquotank Principal Melvin Hawkins, who noted the class included students who are the first in their family to graduate from high school, some who will be the first in their family to attend college, some who plan to join the military and some who have earned college credit while in high school.

Hawkins said he had one piece of advice for graduates: “If you’re going to have your name associated with something make it your best work.”

Class Valedictorian Sean Andersen thanked his family, classmates and teachers, telling them “all of you have helped make me who I am today.”

Andersen spoke to classmates about the importance of respecting and loving other people in spite of differences. He said he saw that trait in his classmates.

“I am very, very grateful for that,” Andersen said of the class’s penchant for respecting diversity.

Andersen encouraged fellow graduates to continue respecting people and appreciating diversity as they go out into the world.

“With that in mind the world is going to be a much better place,” Andersen said.

Class Salutatorian Caleb White also thanked his family and teachers.

“As long as you work to become the best that you can, that’s all that matters,” White said. “Just remember who you are and keep your trust in God.”

Both Andersen and White plan to attend N.C. State University. 

White and Renada Jhanay White were recognized during the ceremony as the “Pride of Pasquotank,” an honor that goes to students deemed ideal representatives of the school’s spirit.

Graduate Shaquel Phifer said in an interview before the ceremony that she plans to become a researcher at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and will be attending the University of Central Florida on a NASA scholarship.

She said she took a lot of science classes and did well in them, and that encouraged her to pursue a career in science.

“I just love learning about science,” Phifer said.

Phifer plans to minor in piano performance and said her music teacher at PCHS, Monica Williams, has been an inspiration to her.

“My music teacher taught me that if I don’t try my very best I won’t be able to go as far as I can in whatever career I choose,” she said. “I have to go all in.”

Kelsey O’Brien, who plans to become a professional singer and opened the ceremony Friday with a stirring rendition of the National Anthem, said Williams taught her a lot about singing. O’Brien said she plans to attend Elizabeth City State University for two years and then transfer to East Carolina University to major in music. O’Brien said she has performed in school musicals since her sophomore year and called Williams “the reason I chose to pursue opera and Broadway.”

O’Brien said her goal is to perform in “Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway.

She remembers advice that she heard from a number of teachers: “Don’t procrastinate. Even if you have time, get it done anyway.”

Dennis Parker II has joined the Navy and reports for duty July 1.

“It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do, to serve my country,” Parker said.

Parker said high school taught him persistence.

“Don’t fail,” he said. “Just keep on doing it and doing it until you get it right.”

Jovon Crutch played football and basketball for the Panthers and said he enjoyed the “great people” he went to school with. He plans to attend ECSU for two years and then study engineering or computers at ECU.

Crutch said art teacher Elaina Lawson encouraged him during his difficult freshman year. He said he will miss his teachers, coaches and classmates.

“It was a great experience while it lasted,” Crutch said.

Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools Superintendent Larry Cartner urged the graduates to practice gratitude and perseverance.

“Make good choices and enjoy the journey ahead,” Cartner said.

Sharon Warden, who chairs the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Board of Education, drew upon fireworks imagery as she challenged the graduates to “use your diploma as the beginning of a tremendous spark that will make an explosion.”