Character follows you through your life, Kestrel Heights graduates told

Jun. 06, 2014 @ 10:10 PM

Forty-six jubilant graduates of Kestrel Heights School were catapulted into the real world Friday night in a ceremony steeped just as much in the promise and perils of modern technology as it was saturated with a sense of community support.

“We live in a world of technology, and everybody’s got some kind of gadget in their hands all the time,” said guest speaker Janice Guess, an administrator at North Carolina Central University who spent years as a sales and marketing representative before that.

“But young people, I want you to think once before you act, twice before you speak, and three times before you post on Facebook. Facebook reflects your character, and your character will follow you for the rest of your life,” she admonished the charter school students.

For Giovanni Cruz, a hand-held gadget was a helpmate. The class valedictorian said his friends would be surprised to know he wasn’t going to wing his speech. He had it downloaded on his cell phone.

 “None of us knows what the future holds. It is human nature to fear the unknown,” Cruz said. “But I know if we apply ourselves the same way we have these past four years we’ll have no problem succeeding in the future.”

At one point in his speech Cruz became emotionally tangled while thanking his parents, “because without their continued support I would not be here today,” he said, stopping in mid-sentence with a choked voice.

As if on cue, the audience burst into applause, as much to honor his expressed gratitude towards his parents as to give him a moment to regain his composure.

The compassionate interaction likely was no surprise to salutatorian Maram Issa, whose grandfather flew in from Jerusalem to see her graduate.

“It’s an honor to graduate from Kestrel Heights,” she said prior to the commencement ceremony. “The school is a community. It feels like one family. It has developed me into the person I am today.”

Ian Moore said before the ceremony that high school was “a nice experience, but it’s also kind of sad when you’re leaving behind so much. … I’ve been here since sixth grade. Same building, same room, same faces, and it’s all about to change. It’s kind of exciting, but it’s also kind of terrifying.”

Moore got the best laugh line of the night for what he didn’t say. In presenting Guess, he kept it Guinness Book of World Records short and sweet.

 “It’s my honor to introduce our guest speaker, Mrs. Janice Guess,” he said, and promptly took his seat.

Guess told the graduates about her experience, along with her siblings and 12 other black children, desegregating Durham’s Brodgon Junior High School after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed.

 “It was young people like you who played an important role during the Civil Rights movement. They marched and rallied for equality, and helped to change America. And because of their courage and vision America changed, and the world drew strength,” Guess said.

 “You are a new generation of heroes, and the world will be shaped by you,” she said.

Lucy Jayala said Kestrel Heights “was a great school. They have a lot of different types of people. I really learned how to work with people. It has prepared me for college.”