Chapel Hill High grads ready to turn the page

Jun. 08, 2013 @ 10:28 PM

With speeches from their fellow students that mixed the serious and the humorous, 325 seniors from Chapel Hill High School on Saturday turned the tassels and looked to the next chapter in their lives during commencement ceremonies held at the Dean Smith Center.

Melodie Parrish, interim principal at CHHS, urged graduates to “continue to lead and inspire. … You have left your indelible mark on Chapel Hill High School, Class of 2013.”  

Galen Kirkpatrick, senior class speaker, recalled how much he learned participating in last year’s Punkin’ Chunkin’ contest, in which students built a medieval-style catapult. “Sinking my teeth into something I really enjoy doing gives me a sense of direction,” and helped him feel productive and valued, Kirkpatrick said. “I hope everyone here gets a chance to do what they love.”

Arun Ganesh, one of eight valedictorians who spoke at the ceremony, said he has high hopes for his class: “I know that the people in this class will change the world.”

Valedictorian Jonathan Siekierski exhorted his fellow students to look beyond quick, clichéd solutions to problems.

“Creativity starts with asking consciously, ‘What can I do differently’,” Sierkierski said.

Valedictorian Claire Nielsen recalled her transformation at CHHS. Before her freshman year, she was petrified at the idea of attending the school.

“Everything seemed so institutionalized. I couldn’t imagine being part of that,” she said. When school started, “I began to enjoy my classes, which were taught by talented teachers. Chapel Hill High School became a place like home.”

There were less serious moments. Beach balls are a tradition at CHHS graduations, and at Saturday’s ceremony the graduating class tossed the balls around at intervals.

“Let us not forget our teachers – Google, Wikipedia, Yahoo! Answers …,” said Valedictorian Zachary Visco. “Our human teachers … they’re the reason we are graduating today.”

Before the ceremony, students expressed bittersweet feelings about graduating.

Chloe Ladd, who plans to major in political science and women’s studies, said she had grown up with so many of her fellow graduates

“I’m having a lot of flashbacks to freshman year, and how everyone has changed. It’s really profound and exciting,” Ladd said.

Victoria Law said she plans to take a “gap year” after graduating and travel to New Zealand.

More than being sad about graduation, “I’m excited to start new things and turn the page,” she said.