PILOT MOUNTAIN — Lorrie Sawyers couldn’t help but wipe away a few tears.
The East Surry High School principal is accustomed to bidding graduating classes farewell each June as they complete their four years of high school, but the Class of 2017 was just a little more special to her.
The 145 students who bid farewell to East Surry on Friday evening hadn’t just been Sawyers’ charges for four years. She’s known them and guided them for seven, since they first arrived at Pilot Mountain Middle School as sixth-graders in the fall of 2010. An assistant principal at PMMS at the time, she later became principal there for two years, and then was promoted to East Surry in 2014.
“I had no idea when I welcomed you to Pilot Mountain Middle School in August of 2010 that I would stand before you at your high school graduation as your principal,” she said. “Oh, the stories I could share. What a journey to get here.”
As Sawyers rose through the ranks professionally, the Class of ‘17 progressed through middle and high school. She recalled how many of the boys and girls she’d met in 2010 were nervous about making the transition to middle school, but had grown into confident young adults over the years.
“You overcame those first-day jitters and now you sit before us, ready to leave high school and go out into the world,” she said. “I’m so excited for you, but a little sad at the same time. I’m been so fortunate to stand on the sidelines to see you grow from sixth-graders to high school graduates.
“I’ve always believed in you and the awesome things you could do.”
The Class of 2017 departed from East Surry having earned more than $3 million in scholarship monies, an average of more than $20,000 per student.
Senior Class President Jonathan Tarn welcomed his fellow graduates, East Surry faculty and staff, and the family and friends of the graduates as they filed in for the 7 p.m. ceremony. Sawyers, along with assistant principals Carla Coble and Jonathan Frasher, presented each of the graduates with their diploma. The procession was halted only twice, to honor first valedictorian Kaylie Jessup, who finished first in her class with a weighted GPA of 4.9286, and later for salutatorian Cameron Sloop, whose GPA was 4.8621. They were tops among a graduating class that contained a great many students wearing honor cords of some type.
After all of the students had received their diplomas, it was left for Senior Class President Mary Jo Lowe to give the farewell to her classmates, reminding them that their “possibilities were endless” for their future, and then Sawyers spoke of her seven years with the students of the Class of ‘17 before declaring them officially graduated, which was celebrated with hats in the air and a massive rain of sticky string.