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Graduation 2019: East Rowan graduates proceed with purpose

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GRANITE QUARRY — Though less than ideal, the relocated 60th commencement exercises at East Rowan High School were not without at least one perk.

The waiting and empty chairs for the 2019 graduating class of 242 spanned the gymnasium floor, with guests filling the bleachers to near-maximum capacity by 7:30 Saturday morning.

And as exercises began, excited family members found the benefit of those close quarters. Some gave shrill whistles, others cupped hands to their mouths and spoke names, making graduates aware of the exact location of the limited few gathered there to celebrate the 13 years and — according to Principal Tonya German — 2,340 days of schooling that had brought them to this point.

The focus of the celebration, said Senior Class President Nicole Fleming, was purpose: a word chosen by the gathered student body as the class descriptor.

Purpose, she said, was the reason for which something was done, created or existed, and she encouraged her peers to pursue their own purpose as they ventured forth following graduation.

“The time has come for us to use our confidence, creativity and court to venture out and discover what the future holds,” she said.

As they began these journeys, German offered more words of encouragement.

“As you think about and make plans for the future, I hope that each of you pursue a career choice that allows you to live into your purpose,” she said.

The ceremony began with the presentation of awards and remarks from the school’s salutatorian, valedictorian and Fleming.

Christian Bennet and Victoria Plyer received the human relations awards, Nate Turner and Grace Faller received the service awards, Gabe Hinceman and Nicole Fleming received the leadership awards and Stephen Deutsch and Mackenzie Sprinkle received the Civitan Citizenship awards.

Victoria Plyer was named salutatorian with a GPA of 4.6111. Peyton Berry, the school’s student body president, was named valedictorian with a GPA of 4.7027.

In her address to the student body, Plyer quoted author Barbara Hall: “The path to our destination is not always a straight one. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn’t matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark.”

And as they embarked, she encouraged her classmates not to ignore who they were.

“Despite the obstacles we might face, we must proceed with confidence, conviction, willingness and determination,” said Plyer. “As you leave here today, be purposeful, be constant and always be true to yourself.”

Berry spoke similarly. The senior class had been asked for years to name career aspirations and goals, she said — but goals like being a good friend or leader were just as admirable.

“Work to become someone that means something to everyone,” she said. “Learn to take a step back, reflect and adjust. Be purposeful, be bold and be amazing.”

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