Ocracoke Graduates 9 2011

July  2011

By Connie Leinbach 

It’s not every day that the person who cuts your hair is your high school commence­ment speaker. But then, Oc­racoke isn’t like anywhere else. It’s a place where the person who cuts your hair can get to know you almost as well as your parents.

Susie Kennedy, who owns and operates Halo Hair, the only hair salon on the island, has a special relationship to the nine students who were gradu­ated Sunday evening June 12 in a ceremony held outdoor on the grounds of Books to be Red. Kennedy and the other com­mencement speaker, Karen Lovejoy, have been part of the students’ lives for many years in their capacities with the now-dormant Ocracoke Youth Center.

Lovejoy was the director and Kennedy is a board member and was Teen Night coordina­tor.

Their dual speech was person­alized to each student in a way no commencement speaker in a school with even 20 graduates could do, as they enumerated each student’s strengths.

In addition, as the ceremony was open to the public, various members of the community with ostensibly no ties to the students attended along with several underclassmen–some­thing that’s also unheard of in large schools who must limit attendees to a handful of each student’s family members.

In a small place like Oc­racoke, adults often mingle with young people in a vari­ety of settings and thus get to know them. This is what makes the community of Ocracoke so special, noted class valedicto­rian, Joseph Franklin Chest­nut, whose speech focused on “community,” and how on Oc­racoke, the school is the center of the community.

Joe noted that he had come with his family to Ocracoke when he was in the first grade.

In an interview last fall when the Youth Center was realiz­ing it had to drastically wind down, possibly cease, its af­ter-school operations due to all the students attending the after-school 21st Century grant program, Joe’s father, Bob, who owns the Surf Shop and is the Youth Center board president said this unique setting beck­oned the family.

“The reason we moved here was to be able to spend time  Youth Center board president said this unique setting beck­oned the family.

“The reason we moved here was to be able to spend time with my kids,” Bob had said. ”In the outside world parents aren’t home. Here, I can go fishing after school with my kids.”

And Joe, along with his class­mates, has excelled in this en­vironment, which shows in his receipt of the $30,000 London scholarship, an academic hon­or that has not been awarded in a few years.

Joe, who is headed to George Washington University, also re­ceived the Farm Bureau, $300, and Beta, $1,000, scholarships.

School principal, Dr. Wal­ter Padgett, who awarded the diplomas, along with school superintendent Dr. Randolph Latimore, noted that the stu­dents attending college re­ceived more than $200,000 in scholarships from those col­leges, in addition to the com­munity scholarships awarded.

“I didn’t know what to ex­pect coming here to this island school,” Padgett said in his re­marks. “Living on Ocracoke is stepping back to the days when school is the center of the com­munity. Respect for self and education are taught at home here.”

And, graduation was not just all about the students. They themselves gave a Com­munity Service Award, as they have for several years, to some­one in the community who has worked behind the scenes for community betterment.

This year, the students gave this honor to Earl O’Neal, whose involvement in the com­munity has been extensive.

Class Salutatorian Devynn Lorelle Mager also addressed the group and revealed that she was diagnosed with mul­tiple sclerosis last year. Not one to let that stop her, Mager plans to attend Wingate University in the fall. She received the Oc­racoke School PTA Scholarship of $500.

The other graduates and their awards are as follows:

Meiraf Selam Zekaryas, who moved to Ocracoke last year, received a $10,000 scholarship from the State Employees’ Credit Union (People Helping People Scholarship). She will attend the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

Ronnie Van O’Neal, III, who will attend Tidewater Com­munity College, received the Class of 1982 scholarship in the amount of $2,140. He also re­ceived the Beveridge and Mayo Scholarship, $500

Madeleine O Payne received the $2,500 National County Courthouse Scholarship from the Hyde County Commission­ers. She will attend Appala­chian State University.

Jeremiah Cody Smith will be working fulltime.

Chante Lynna Mason will attend Pitt Community Col­lege. She received a $1,000 scholarship from the Ocracoke Assembly of God Church as well as the Ellen Holloday Scholarship, $750; Ocracoke In­vitational Fishing Tournament Scholarship, $500; Ocracoke Va­riety Store, $250.

Petra Jasmin Flores will at­tend Beaufort Community Col­lege. She received the $2,700 Greg and Eden Honeycutt Scholarship (through the Oc­racoke Community Founda­tion).

Mitchell Jovanny Ibarra, who will attend Pitt Communi­ty College, received the follow­ing scholarships: Anonymous in memory of Charlotte Castro, $1,000; Ocracoke Variety Store, $250; Wells Fargo, $750; David Ondrovic, $50.

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