Class of 2014 graduates

Jun. 14, 2014 @ 04:45 PM

Tassels are turned, hats are thrown and tears are shed. For many, high school graduation is the first major milestone of their lives and the starting point of their futures as adults. 

Students throughout Union County achieved this milestone Thursday and Friday at their graduations. 

Jonathan Harbin, a teacher at Monroe High School, urged the graduating class to not let their high school graduation be the end of their successes, but the beginning. 

“You’ve grown so much, but not enough,” he said. He told them to strive for more than the high school diploma they were about to receive. 

“Dare to leave your comfortable life,” Harbin said.

He encouraged the graduates to venture beyond Monroe, Charlotte or even North Carolina and to embrace the failures they may encounter along the way. He told them they will learn from their failures and those failures will make them better. 

While you seek out your life, he told them, live it with integrity. 

“Keep moving,” Harbin said. “(Today is) not an end, but a springboard.” 

Principal Brad Breedlove told the seniors that each of them had played a role in the success of the Redhawks and honored the students who had received scholarships, honors and awards. 

Senior Oscar Ali Zelaya, Jr. told his classmates to refuse to be complacent and to not settle for the achievements of the past. 

“Let us change the world,” he said. 

Fayja Ware, 17, graduated Friday as an honor roll recipient. She will attend North Carolina Agricultural and Technical (A&T) State University and plans to study industrial engineering. 

“It was exciting and scary,” she said, describing what it was like to walk across the stage and receive her diploma. She said it was scary because they do not know what will come next. 

Sitting with her classmates for the last time was sad and emotional, she said. She noted that it was also happy because they are all going their own separate ways to pursue their dreams. 

Her hope for her future, she said, is to be successful. 

Nyasia Covington, 18, graduated cum laude (her grade point average was between 3.71 and 4.13). She plans to attend North Carolina Central University to study nursing. 

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She said it felt great to have her high school diploma. She was proud that she made it and also proud that she was raised by a single mother, without a father. 

Her mother, Lori Covington, said watching her daughter receive her diploma “was an awesome feeling.” 

She hoped for her daughter’s future that she would go to school and be successful and graduate. 

“I just want her to be better than I was,” she said.

Graduation is a time of pride not only for the students who earned their diplomas, but their parents, teachers, staff and administration.

“We are very proud of our graduating seniors, who continue to bring in record-breaking scholarship offers, a testament to their hard work,” Superintendent Mary Ellis said in a statement. “(Union County Public Schools) continues to have the highest graduation rate of any North Carolina school systems its size and continues to rank at the top in its growth and performance rate. Even though our graduation rate is more than 90 percent, we remain committed to our goal of seeing 100 percent of our students graduate.” 

As the newly-minted Monroe alumni marched out of Austin Auditorium at Wingate University, they met with family and friends on the lawn. Through the laughter and tears were students yelling “We made it” and congratulating each other on their accomplishments. 

Though high school can be filled with ups and downs, good times and bad times, as students laughed and hugged in their red graduation robes, it all seemed worthwhile.