On a misty night, Sussex Central Golden Knights reign as graduates

GEORGETOWN – Sussex Central High School’s Class of 2018 reigned as Golden Knight graduates Wednesday night during the school’s 49th annual commencement.

Three hundred and 62 seniors received diplomas during the evening graduation, staged outdoors in the stadium in occasional mist.

Wet weather in no way dampened the excitement, spirit, joy and in some cases relief of the monumental occasion.

Christian Wise, the class president, told it like he sees it.

“We’re a good-looking group. You’re all looking good out there. I am proud,” Christian said. “The world is going to appreciate the Class of 2018 as we are the best class to come through Sussex Central. Trust me, everybody knows that. Sussex Central, we love you. But it’s time for us to get out of here.”

Class valedictorian Carlynn Rodriguez spoke of living a life full of love.

“While I am honored to be standing here I know that my life is not defined by my external successes. If I give all of who I am but do not love, I have gotten nowhere. My successes at this point do not matter,” said Carlynn. “No matter what I say, what I believe and what I do, I am bankrupt without love. Without love we all perish, because the earth and stars can and will pass away, but love will always remain.”

Salutatorian Caroline Davis recognized those responsible for helping to make their graduation possible.

“I would like to thank all of those who have pushed me throughout my high school career. Thank you to my family, friends, coaches, and teachers. I truly appreciate all the things you have done for me throughout these past four years,” said Caroline, who saluted the students’ efforts. “We have pushed ourselves. We were the ones who put in all the hard work to get here. We were the ones who woke up early every morning, who stayed up late doing homework after all of our various after-school activities, and we were the ones who had to deal with all of the nagging teachers … just kidding!”

“Finally, I don’t really want to admit this … but I will miss high school. However, I am so glad it is over,” Caroline added. “I am ready to move to the next chapter of my life. I wish all of you the best of luck in your next journey. This is just the beginning.”

Carlynn encouraged fellow graduates to “reflect back on your life and continue to spread nothing but love and kindness to those around you, because that is what really matters.” And she reminded them to be thankful and grateful for family, friends and teachers, “because we would be nowhere without them.”

“Some of you today will be filled with tears of joy and some may feel nervous about moving on. I’m not here to tell you how to feel because there are a lot of emotions for this moment right now,” said Christian. “Trust me. I feel the same way. My leg is back here shaking.”

“Today is an opportunity to reflect on your experiences and accomplishments over the last several years. We wish you well as you endeavor to take on new pursuits,” said Sussex Central High School Principal Dr. Bradley Layfield.

Guest speaker Shavaughn Felder provided an inspirational address, sharing her personal challenges that she overcame in becoming a well-respected educator. Her career of nearly two decades has been dedicated to bettering the lives of children.

“You have the ability to make a mark in this world. It is up to you to choose which mark you want to make – a positive one or a negative one. The choice is yours,” said Ms. Felder. “Whatever your heart desires you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it. Believe in yourself. Have confidence to stand for what you believe in and go after it with everything in you. You have one life to live. So, I want you to get the most out of it.”

Ms. Felder shared with the class her five ingredients to the recipe called “A Better You”:

  • Get to know your weaknesses. “Most of us know our strengths because we are complimented on them daily. When it comes to our weaknesses we are more likely to refrain from listening to someone’s opinion about us. Because let’s face it, who wants to hear the raw truth. When you start to discover your weaknesses, you will start to grow as an individual knowing within yourself that you have flaws. But you strive each and every day to become a better you,” said Ms. Felder. “A lot of people tend to acquaint weaknesses with failure and that is farthest from the truth. Weaknesses allow you to reflect upon your lack of strength and problem areas in your life while failure does not define you. It just simply means you were not successful on your first attempt, and that’s OK.”
  • Love yourself. “It’s difficult to show and spread love when you are not experiencing it personally,” she said.
  • Dare to be different. “What is wrong with being different, drumming to your own beat, taking a leap of faith and saying to yourself, ‘I’ve got this?’ Your uniqueness is one of a kind so embrace it. No two fingerprints are the same for a reason because we were all created to be different.”
  • Don’t be afraid of the unknown. “By nature, we plan for everything in life,” said Ms. Felder. “Don’t get discouraged if your plans change. It’s OK. Don’t allow mishaps to deter you from your goals and purpose in life. It’s OK to leave a few i’s undotted and t’s uncrossed, unless you want to go coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs.”
  • Be grateful. She spoke of overcoming the battle with Chromes disease, and temporary paralysis during an important time in her last year of grad school. “I believe in miracles because I am one. You have to wake up every morning with an attitude of gratefulness, knowing that a new window of opportunity has arisen.”

“There isn’t a manual for this thing called life. I am so glad for that. Each and every one of you have the opportunity to create your personalized manual that others can one day emulate. Always treat others with respect and kindness,” said Ms. Felder. “If you don’t remember anything else I have said to you today, be proud of who you are as an individual and don’t allow others’ perception of you to define who you are.”

Christian, in his speech, delivered special salutes to his mother and two SCHS staff members who were with students on the field stage.

“Thanks to my mother, for her being there behind me for my whole school high school career has pushed me to make a difference. And because of my mother, I can continue my education at Jackson State University down in Jackson, Mississippi,” Christian said. “Also, my second mother, I give thanks to Momma Reid (Nika Reid, counselor for the Class of 2018). We are Miss Reid’s first graduating class and she has done an amazing job. And, of course, let’s not forget Miss DeLeon (Kelly DeLeon, library/media specialist)). She has truly been an inspiration in not just my life but an entire school as well. The Class of 2018 loves you, Miss DeLeon. And we promise to get you on Ellen DeGeneres very soon. We are going to get you on that show for being the most outstanding media specialist … real estate agent, Cross Fit trainer and, of course, the best Dirty Dancing impersonator.”

Christian also offered kudos to Dr. Layfield and the Indian River School District board of education for making “these past four years something to remember.”

Tyler Bunting and Ben Campagnone, secretary and treasurer for the class, made the presentation of the class gift: new leather furniture for the library, personalized with the Sussex Central school logo.

Dr. Layfield referred to the school’s mission statement, which reads: ‘Sussex Central High School, a diverse and dynamic community that strives to prepare students to be lifelong learners and responsible global citizens.”

“You truly embrace and exemplify our mission. The diversity of the class of 2018 makes you unique and it also makes you strong,” said Dr. Layfield. “Whether you have chosen a path of post-secondary education and college or trade schools, or the military or the job force, you are committed to the next challenge and continual learning will be a necessity for success.”

Christian encouraged fellow graduates to not stress over little things. “Enjoy life as we only get one to live. Life is all about setting goals, reaching those goals and becoming the person you dream to be,” he said. “As easy as that may sound there will be negativity, failures, mistakes and other obstacles that we cannot let ruin our destiny. Use these mistakes, failures and negativity as motivation. Doubt kills more dreams than failures ever will.”

Diplomas were presented by Indian River School District board of education president Charles Bireley, and several other IRSD board members for special presentations.

Academic Top 10

Carlynn Rodriguez, Caroline Davis , Casey Boucher, Taylor Evick , Daniella Furtado, Sergio Garcia Gonzales, Kiara Hall , Arely Hernandez Mejia, Adriana Lopez and Ashley Mooney.


Approximately 80 percent of the SCHS Class of 2018 plan to attend a two- or four-year college or trade school, while 15 percent plan to immediately enter the work force.

Nearly five percent are joining the United States military. Those students, along with military veterans in the audience, were requested to stand for special recognition

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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