DOBSON — Surry Early College celebrated the largest graduating class yet of its eight commencements Friday evening in the gym of Surry Community College here.
Principal Amber Flippen said the class of 98 students is the largest in the school’s history; 40 of the graduates are going on to four-year colleges and universities, 13 are going to community colleges, 18 are going into the work force, and two are going into the military.
Fifty-three of the graduates have associates degrees in arts, sciences or general education, five in applied sciences and 27 earned various applied degrees and certifications.
The students have been awarded $262,774 in scholarship funds, a total which does not include financial aid grants, loans and work-study.
Waiting for the graduation ceremony to begin, Carson Senter, age 6, informed his twin sister Chloe of the students that “they’re kind of like grown-ups.”
Adults nearby agreed with Carson’s assessment.
After the graduates marched in to the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” and the presentation of colors and the pledge of allegiance by the Surry Central High School JROTC, German Muñoz-Lopez gave a welcome speech thanking his family and told his fellow graduates they should give themselves a pat on the back for surviving the experience of being high school students and college students at the same time.
Among the many things Muñoz-Lopez learned during his time at Early College was that he was allergic to bees when he was stung by one on campus. He included the school nurse in his thank yous for sticking him with an EpiPen.
Muñoz-Lopez said his father was at Wake-Forest Baptist Medical Center on the verge of dying, and driving back and forth every day and getting on with school was very difficult, but he never gave up on his father or his family. But he did come close to giving up on school.
“But we’re the Spartans, the warriors that never give up,” he said to his classmates before concluding with a quote from Arnold Schwarzenegger. “You can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets.”
Guest speaker for the graduation was Anna Culler from the Class of 2015.
Culler spoke to the graduates about the value of staying local. She said her time at Early College gave her enough credits to graduate from Gardner-Webb University in May 2017 with a double major that did not cost her any additional time or money.
While a student, Culler learned of a business internship at Surry-Yadkin Electrical Membership Corporation but did not think it was for her as she needed a job, not an internship.
“But I prayed about it, and the praying led to applying, and the applying led to a job offer. A job offer,” she told the audience. “Not an internship.”
Culler has stayed with Surry-Yadkin Electric after receiving her four-year degree and insists she has missed nothing by not going away to a big city.
“My mama is close by. My mama and her hot chocolate. She’s not just a phone call away, but a 15-minute drive away. The streets I walk on are the streets I learned to walk on.”
Jayne Willard, student council president for the last two years, gave a farewell speech, summing up the lessons of her five years at Early College.
“Rolling with the punches” was the freshman lesson as she realized everything was not going to go as planned. Sophomore year was about learning for her own enjoyment. Junior year was about perseverance and senior year was about taking risks.
Finally, in the last year, she learned to strive for the occasional failure.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.