Nantahala's five graduates make their final flight
For a tight-knit community like Nantahala, seeing five seniors take their next step in life is a bittersweet moment.
Tears of joy and sorrow were shed at Nantahala High School’s graduation ceremony on the night of May 24, when Cristina Feria, Nathan Malloy, Makayla Rowland, Hope Ward and Brayden West received their high school diplomas before a packed crowd inside the gymnasium.
The festivities included speeches from valedictorian West and salutatorian Rowland, awards, scholarships and the traditional senior video. This year’s video featured a scroll through each senior’s life in pictures, bringing forth a collection of admiration from family and friends who gathered to extend well wishes to the graduates.
Rowland received the English award and cited Deuteronomy 31:6 (“Be strong of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord they God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee”) at the outset of her address to her peers.
“I love this Scripture,” Rowland said during her speech. “I’m so proud of each and every one of you, and I hope you go far in life. I can’t believe the time is here to leave.
“Nantahala School has been one heck of a ride these past 13 years, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. All the teachers here are so special to me. I thank you all for being there for me.”
West received the science, social studies, physical education and vocational awards. He left attendees of the commencement with a smile on their face.
“As I reflect on my time at Nantahala School, I realize that above all, my classmates and I have been truly blessed to be students of the school,” West said. “Our time here has not been taken for granted, so we want to thank each and every one of you that have helped us along the way.
“It’s been 13 years that I’ve roamed these halls … well, hall,” West added, laughing, “and time has really flown by. There’s so many memories that I cherish and will never forget about this place.”
Upon declaration of graduation by Nantahala Principal Andy Pyle, the seniors not only turned their tassels, but turned to those seated nearby and unloaded several cans of Silly String in celebration.
In a somber moment, Nantahala also had a memorial set up alongside the five graduates. An empty chair adorned with a gown and photograph of Connor Calabucci, who passed away in 2012, sat at the end of the row.