By Connie Leinbach
The seven 2012 Ocracoke School students who graduated Sunday night are going into the world with buckets full of encouraging notes from the Ocracoke community. The idea for asking the audience to write personal notes to the graduates came from the keynote speaker Laura Burgess Miller of Charleston, W. Va., who was the students’ middle school guidance counselor. Miller, in her speech, quoted from “The Four Agreements,” by Don Miguel Ruiz, in asking the students to use their words and voices as a power for good. Then she asked the audience to write well wishes for each of the graduates with index cards and pens provided. “Each graduate will go away with a bucket full of well wishes,” Miller said. After talking about each graduate individually, she gave the audience time to write their notes. Attendees placed their notes in colorful sand buckets after the ceremony.
“What a very cool idea,” said Rob Dennis, co-owner of Thai Moon, the Thai restaurant on the island, as he placed his notes. “I know them all and was able to say something to each of them.”
Others, too, raved about this idea. “Ocracoke is the only place in the world you could do this,” said Kay Riddick, Ocracoke resident.
“I didn’t know how it would come across, but it did,” said Miller after the ceremony. “I hope they do it next year.” In her introduction of Miller, Echo Faye Bennink said that Miller played a large part in their growing-up years.
Valedictorian Molly Claudia Frum Lovejoy, spoke about the special place that is the Ocracoke community—encouraging its youth to experiment and take risks while always remaining close. “The people of Ocracoke will always have our backs,” she said.
Lovejoy received the $30,000 London scholarship, the Tideland Electric scholarship, the Jim and Becky Cornette Scholarship and the Glenn Eure arts scholarship. She will attend Emerson College, Boston, Mass., in the fall.
Class salutatorian Virginia Selby Downes, began to get emotional as she talked about the support she has received from Principal Walter Padgett, who has resigned after two years in the position and is returning to Virginia this summer. “You’ve revamped our school, made us proud to be Dolphins and participated in every conceivable event,” she said about Padgett.
Downes received the following scholarships: Ocracoke Civic and Business Association ; in memory of Charlotte Castro; Ocracoke Assembly of God; Ocracoke Variety Store, and the Ocracoke Invitational Surf Fishing Tournament. Downes will attend Sewanee University of the South, Sewanee, Tenn.
Bennink received the following scholarships: State Employees Credit Union; WOVV radio; Farm Bureau and the Beta Club. She will attend the University of North Carolina, Asheville.
Leslie Denice Espinoza received the following scholarships: Delta Kappa Gamma; Greg and Eden Honeycutt. She will attend the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Cassandra Alexey Hagins received the following scholarships: Wells Fargo Bank; Ocracoke Invitational Surf Fishing Tournament. She will attend Barton College, Wilson.
Ashley Salinas- Lopez received the Beveridge Mayo scholarship and will attend Pitt Community College.
The lone boy in the class, William Thomas O’Neal, does not have immediate plans for college but someday wants to go into engineering or electronics.
Vera and Ralph Buxton were honored with the annual community service award.
High academic honors for the 2011-12 year were awarded to the following students: Samantha Sutton, elementary school; Andrew Tillett, high school, and Darvin Contreras, middle school.
Ocracoke School students also were recognized recently for athletic achievements. Among the honorees was the Ocracoke School Elementary Cross-Country team, which recently earned Fastest Elementary on the Outer Banks.
Senior Echo Bennink was most valuable player for the high school girls’ basketball team and Sydney Austin was MVP for the middle school girls basketball team. Andrew Tillett was the MVP for the high school boys’ basketball team and Evin Caswell was the MVP for the middle school basketball team.