Sussex Central grads poised for life’s next chapter

SCHS jada smack with layfield

Sussex Central High School Principal Dr. Bradley Layfield congratulates graduate Jada Smack, one of five SCHS Class of 2015 graduates who earned International Baccalaureate recognition.

GEORGETOWN – Together for the last time as high school seniors, Sussex Central High School’s Class of 2015 crossed the stage as graduates Tuesday night, ready for life’s next chapter.

Two hundred and sixty-six graduates received diplomas in outdoor ceremonies punctuated by student speeches and words from guest speaker Melanie DeForrest, a 2003 SCHS graduate who as a special effects make-up artist brought a taste of Hollywood to central Sussex County.

SCHS cole haden melanie deForest

Seated on stage next to Sussex Central Class of 2015 Valedictorian Cole Haden is commencement speaker Melanie DeForrest, a 2003 SCHS graduate.

“Do yourself favor and get out there; go experience life,” said Ms. DeForrest. “All I say is – live your journey.”

Salutatorian Jason Hickman saluted the Class of 2015 for its success.

“So many are concerned with past successes or striving toward future success, that they forget the present,” said Jason said. “We have prevailed. We have made it. We are graduating. We are the class of 2015. We are a success story.”

“I’m not saying that after high school life is over and we all fall off the edge of the earth, but life becomes – for lack of better words – harder,” said Class President Kathleen Mooney. “What are you going to do to make the past four years actually worth something? I challenge you; whatever is next, use the diploma or rather what it symbolizes to achieve a life of happiness. Success is not attained if you do not do what makes you happy. Do not be afraid to make mistakes.”

SCHS mirana kollock NHS honoree

Miranda Kollock is among the National Honor Society honorees in Sussex Central’s Class of 2015.

Class Valedictorian Cole Haden recalled stepping off the bus in September 2011 as a SCHS freshman, feeling “complete anonymity” for the first time in his life.

A conversation that day with a senior bonded his first high school friendship and led him to back-stage and on-stage roles with the school’s Take II Drama Club and stirred his love for music  – passion that is taking him to the Berklee College of Music in Boston this fall.

“Now is an opportune time however to realize your individual power as each of your actions ripple society’s current and changes its course,” Cole said. “It is an exercise in cause and effect. Instead of asking yourself what you must do for a Klondike bar, you must ask yourself what you must do to make a positive contribution to this world and for generations to come.”

SCHS class officers hickman stillman revel

From left, Sussex Central High School Salutatorian Jason Hickman, Class Secretary Natasha Stillman and Class Vice President Justin Revel.

Cole said his desire to answer that question was fulfilled earlier this school year when he took a stance in support of LGBTQA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer and asexual) after a conflict was raised to the board of education regarding the distribution of uncensored materials.

“I spoke up to contest the political argument that fought to separate,” said Cole. “I spoke up to allow those who come after me to have access to an education that does not discriminate.”

Ms. DeForrest’s pursuit of happiness landed her employment in the world of make-up. Her artistic talents are evident in the 2013 Academy Award-winning movie Dallas Buyers Club, which won numerous honors – including Best Makeup and Hairstyling.

“Not long ago I was sitting in the very seat you are sitting in now, excited about my life after high school, ready to conquer the world,” said Ms. DeForrest, who now resides in New Orleans – known to some as Hollywood South. “I was nervous about the next chapter in my journey but I had a feeling that it was going to be incredible – and I hope you do tonight.”

SCHS mathews tylcia sharps

Sussex Central High School World History teacher Emily Mathews adjusts the cap for soon-to-be Golden Knight graduate Tyleia Sharps prior to Tuesday’s commencement.

Ms. DeForrest told the class how she persevered when the economy tanked in 2008 and she was basically unemployed.

“I had talent but I couldn’t use it. Someone once told me where there is no struggle there is no strength. I struggled greatly but it also it gave me strength to stick with my dreams and the career that I love,” Ms. DeForrest said.

More than 80 percent of SCHS’s 2015 graduates have plans to continue their education at two- or four-year colleges or trade schools, and 12 percent plan to enter the workforce immediately.

And the six percent of 2015 Golden Knight graduates who plan to enter the military drew a special salute from SCHS Principal Dr. Bradley Layfield.

SCHS nathan ehrick diploma

Sussex Central graduate Nathan Michael Ehrick is congratulated by Indian River School District Superintendent Dr. Susan Bunting after receiving his diploma from IRSD school board president Charles Bireley. At right waiting to offer congratulations is SCHS Principal Dr. Bradley Layfield.

“On this day after America remembered our veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice, I would ask those 15 graduates who plan to serve our country in the United States Armed Forces to please stand and be honored …,” said Dr. Layfield. “We thank you for your future service to our great nation.”

Dr. Layfield asked graduates to remember four very simple rules to guide their futures.

“You’ve learned them since kindergarten but I’ll remind you one last time,” he said. “One: Do your best; work hard toward anything and everything you do. Two: Do what’s right. Be able to look at yourself in the mirror and see a person of character. Whether you succeed in life or fail – and failures will come – make sure you do what’s right and you’ll have no regrets. Three: Remember the Golden Rule; treat others the way you want them to treat you. Four: Never give up. Show perseverance and determination every day … and don’t ever, ever quit.”

Dr. Susan Bunting, Superintendent of the Indian River School District, challenged graduates to pursue success. “Shoot for the stars,” she said. “And the sky is the limit.”

Class Vice President Justin Revel and Class Secretary Natasha Stillman presented the Class of 2015’s gift – a new sound system for the high school gymnasium.

Ms. DeForrest several times reminded the audience she is a far better make-up artist than public speaker. In closing, Ms. DeForrest  made reference to drugs. “Don’t do drugs … I mean, but it might happen. Just don’t get addicted to them,” Ms. DeForrest said. “So tonight when you guys go out and party …. be honest with yourself  … be aware of what is around you . Don’t get in the car drunk because then your life ends tonight instead of the possibility of getting up here and totally making a fool of yourself. All I say is live your journey … and that’s my speech.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at

SCHS Erika long diploma bireley, bunting, layfield

Sussex Central High School senior Erika Long receives her diploma from Indian River School District board of education president Charles Bireley. Waiting to offer congratulations are IRSD Superintendent Dr. Susan Bunting and SCHS Principal Dr. Bradley Layfield.

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