DPS sends off winter grads

Jan. 21, 2014 @ 05:39 PM

To the enthusiastic cheers of camera-toting family members and friends, nearly 90 students received high school diplomas Tuesday during Durham Public Schools winter commencement.
The graduation exercise, attended by more than 700 people at Durham School of the Art, was held to give students from across the district who graduated late or early, the once-in-a-life time thrill of walking across the stage to receive a high school diploma.
For Alexander Henry McCray, a newly minted graduate of the Southern School of Engineering, the next step is a job, and then it’s on to N.C. A&T University in Greensboro.
McCray plans to enroll in the school in the fall to pursue his dream of becoming an engineer.
“It feels great,” McCray said of earning his diploma. “Just to be here, walking across the stage feels really good.”
Henrietta Smith, McCray’s mother, said she is proud of McCray, who is her first child to graduate high school.
“He’s a hard worker, and is going to [N.C.] A&T to become a game designer and to start a business,” Smith said. “I’m just proud of him.”
Zan Pettiford was also proud of her daughter Kendra Pettiford who earned a diploma from the Durham Performance Learning Center.
Pettiford said she’s told her daughter to “keep on pushing and strive for the best and keep up with her education.”
“I’m so proud of her,” Pettiford said.
She also had good things to say about Durham Performance Learning Center, which is housed at the Holton Learning Center on North Driver Street.
“They really care about the children, and treat them like family,” Pettiford said. “I don’t know if she could have made it without them. That school is magnificent.”
Hillside High School Principal William Logan delivered the graduation speech.
Logan said he was asked to keep his speech short due to the winter storm that was expected to hit the Triangle on Tuesday night.
“So, I turned my 20-page presentation into a 15-page presentation,” joked Logan, the DPS Principal of the Year.
Easing into his speech, Logan noted that for some students the journey to graduation was a struggle, while for others it came naturally.
“Regardless of how you got here, you’re here,” Logan said.
He told the graduates that they find the struggle of life very real once they leave the nest.
“You must ask yourself this question, ‘Am I prepared for the struggle?’ Logan said.
He said students must be ready to struggle when a promotion they deserved is given to someone else because that person is related to the manager or when a college professor hasn’t been available to help with a problem the student might have in a course.
“Because you’re seated here and ready for the turning of the tassel today, that is a sign that you’re ready for the struggle,” Logan said.