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Cape Hatteras Secondary School celebrates graduates at outdoor ceremony

At Cape Hatteras Secondary School of Coastal Studies, members of the Class of 2020 walked across a portion an athletic field, climbed three stairs, picked up a high school diploma and a bright sunflower.

At the center of the stage stood Cape Hatteras Secondary Principal Beth Rooks. The traditional photo of graduate and principal was taken. Each graduate then left the stage and met family members arranged close by.

This was not a “normal” or “traditional” graduation for the Hatteras Island public high school.

It was outside, the first time in living memory that has occurred.

Despite the wide-open venue with a view of the Pamlico Sound, the ceremony was intensely personal.

Usually, the campus gymnasium is filled with family, friends, alumni, faculty members and classmates.

This commencement featured the graduate with family and friends close by.

Valedictorian Amy Chen in her speech said “Looking back, there is one thing I never considered, the element of unpredictability. As much as we would all like for our plans to stay the same, they change. This graduation is a great example of that.”

Administrators and staff at Cape Hatteras Secondary worked to make the June 11, 2020 event memorable, despite the coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

Graduates-to-be in caps and black gowns along with family members walked the paved pathway to the gymnasium. The school’s custodial staff had made the walk attractive with new mulch, flowers and stone edging the pavement.

Along the pathway, a big sign proclaimed Congratulations Class of 2020 Cape Hatteras Secondary School. Audra Krieg Photography made pictures of the graduate and family members, a new feature for the event.

Then, the student walked toward the side of the gymnasium to be greeted by members of the Dare County Board of Education. Family members walked across the field to a marked area, close by the videography tent in front of the stage. Once the family was settled and ready, senior counselor Karla Jarvis called out the senior’s name.

When the graduate descended the stairs, family and friends were there. Smiles were abundant. One daughter embraced her father and then her mother in fierce hugs. Another graduate talked to each of those attending for him. Some family groups were large. On some occasions, intensely proud parents stood for their son or daughter. A few tears were shed.

Chen, in her speech, revealed the goal she wrote down as a freshman, being valedictorian. “If it could go back in time, and talk to little freshman Amy, I’d tell her not to stress so much over her future.”

But Chen is also excited about “what the future has in store for me.” She will be attending University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is honored with a Carolina Covenant scholarship ($15,293) along with three local scholarships.

Chen also received the Citizenship Award for the Class of 2020. In her remarks, Rooks said Chen “represents quiet kindness.” Using her understanding and passion for math, she has tutored her peers to help others reach success. Her service to the school included working five hours in the concession stand at each home basketball game. The award celebrates “the compassionate spirit of Amy Chen,” said Rooks.

Salutatorian John Contestable said to his classmates that he had known “a lot of you since we were 5 years old and I can say we have certainly had some good times. Our many field trips to the lighthouse, the eighth grade trip and more recently countless pep rallies and sporting events. Whatever it is, I share good memories with every single person in this class and I appreciate that.”

At the end of his speech, Contestable said “And to leave you all with a good bit of advice, here are the wise words of Keith Durham: ‘Don’t be stupid.’”

Contestable will attend University of North Carolina at Wilmington, assisted with $7,600 in local scholarships.

The Class of 2020 received $151,893 in scholarships to pursue post-secondary education. Six graduates are attending North Carolina universities, nine are aiming for College of The Albemarle and seven more will attend community colleges elsewhere, two are attending private colleges, two will join the workforce and five are undecided.

Four graduates are slated to join the U.S. Coast Guard and two will join the U.S. Army.

As graduates and families left the field, graduates visited a table to pick up shadow boxes from the Cape Hatteras Booster Club for athletic participation and envelopes with scholarship information. Heather Boan, Cape Hatteras Secondary’s middle grades counselor, staffed the table during the morning and Suzanne Jennette, coordinator for career and technical education, held down the afternoon shift.

Baldwin Video Productions recorded the Cape Hatteras Secondary School commencement event on June 11, using a stationary camera, a small camera for roving and a drone.

The day started shortly after 9 a.m. Students selected 10-minute blocks. Benny Baldwin and his staff will edit the film to follow the commencement events outlined in the program offered to families. Teacher Tracy Salmon served as guest speaker.

The program announced the marshals from the junior class. Laura Hooper is the chief marshal. Others on the list are Maria Bradley, Eliza Quidley, Rubie Shoemaker and Conner Tawes.

On the podium for the commencement was Dare County Schools Superintendent John D. Farrelly, Rooks, Cape Hatteras Secondary Assistant Principal Annette O’Neal and Karla Jarvis.

Graduates in the Cape Hatteras Secondary Class of 2020 number 41, of which 39 participated in the June 11 ceremony.

Commencement ended at 4:45 p.m. The sun shone on commencement for most of the day. A few threatening clouds rolled in late afternoon. The wind was brisk and gusty at times. The gusts sometimes liberated mortarboards.

Cape Hatteras Secondary School of Coastal Studies Class of 2020:

Camaan Malachi Aldridge, Chelsea Carolina Artzt, Justin Duane Chandler, Amy Chen, Jose Angel Cirisa, John Bazemore Contestable, Dominic Mateo Cross, Kai Austin Detter, Liam Thomas Dilworth, Anna Elizabeth France, Ava Elizabeth Garry, Chyenne Gaskill, Sara Cheyanne Gaskins, Stanley Sherwood Godwin III, Dylan Michael Gray, James Travis Hild, Grant James Hood, Zachary Robert Huizing, Taylor Lee Jarvis, Trevor Paul Kaetzel, Hunter James Langevin, Lexus Marie Meekins, Jadon Rock Midgett, Madison Hope Midgett, Erin Elizabeth Millard, Jasper Lee Morris, Peyton Shelby Mugford, Marcos Alexander Ortega Ancheta, Brandon Lee Paquette, Ireland Alayne Rains, Christian Phillip Rivera, Donald Kadyn Shepherd, Ashton Garrett Slagle, Lane Philip Stevenson, Junias Rochin Torres, Sophie Ella Waterfield, Anastazia Marie Wilkinson, Hannah Claire Williams, Victoria Rose Williams, Nevaeh Isaac Willis and Simon Joseph Wilson.

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