More than 1,600 poised to graduate

Staff report

More than 1,600 Robeson County students will grab their high school diploma today, and then more than half of them are expected to head over to The University of North Carolina at Pembroke to enjoy a drug- and alcohol-free celebration afterward.

There will be graduation ceremonies for all six public high schools at three different venues. Twenty-three graduates of the Early College at Robeson Community College have already been handed their diplomas.

The high schools, number of graduates, times and the venues are as follows:

— St. Pauls High, 193 graduates, 9 a.m., Givens Performing Arts Center at UNCP.

— Lumberton High School, 484 graduates, 10 a.m., Lumberton High’s gymnasium.

— Red Springs High School, 170 graduates, 10 a.m., Robeson Community College’s A.D. Lewis Auditorium.

— Fairmont High School, 161 graduates, 12:30 p.m., Givens Performing Arts Center at UNCP.

— South Robeson High School, 114 graduates, 2 p.m., Robeson Community College’s A.D. Lewis Auditorium.

— Purnell Swett High School, 411 graduates, 4 p.m., Givens Performing Arts Center at UNCP.

Tasha Oxendine, a spokesperson with the Public Schools, said about 1,000 of those students are expected for the 31st annual Project Graduation, which begins at 8 p.m. at various venues at UNCP. The event was established after two students were killed in the late 1980s on graduation night, and schools officials say there have not been any fatalities on that day since. The idea is for students to party, go home and then make the proverbial beach trip to kick off their summer. At the end of the celebration, the students have a chance to win dozens of goodies, such as computers, speakers, iPads, a hoover board and much more.

Shanita Wooten, superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County, had a message for graduates, their parents and educators that reads in part as follows: “You have studied hard, stayed on course and graduation day is finally at hand. For many of the more than 1,500 seniors who will turn their tassels at our seven high school graduation ceremonies, the road to graduation wasn’t always easy. You have taken hundreds of exams, read for days on end and spent many sleepless nights preparing reports or class projects. Some students worked throughout high school to support their families. I salute your commitment to excellence. Friday, it will all be worth it.

“With final exams behind you, it is time to celebrate your accomplishment, but also to celebrate a new chapter in your story. Many of you will further your educational journey in college, some will serve your country in the military and some students will join the workforce. Each of these choices has the same potential for success and I hope we have prepared you for this next challenge.

“If college is your next choice, many have laid the groundwork to make the road a little lighter. Our graduates received almost $4 million in scholarships to support their college dreams. The scholarships ranged from academic to athletic to military. Many of you have received a full-ride to the university of your choice.

“All of these successes would not be possible without the parents, grandparents and family members who have supported our graduates for the past 12 or 13 years. Parents, I understand how hard it must have been to watch your children walk into their first kindergarten and first grade class. Some might think it seemed easier as they entered fifth, eighth or even 10th grade. As a parent, you are always mindful of every need to make sure your child was prepared. I salute our parents and families for your sacrifice. These diplomas will have your students’ names on them, but parents, the turning of the tassel is as much your honor as your children.

“I also must say thank you to all of our educators who made a difference in the lives of these seniors. Their acceptance to so many post-secondary institutions across the nation shows the level of your commitment to excellence.

“As this chapter closes and another unfolds toward your amazing futures, I wish you great success. I hope you remember the people along the way who supported your steps and pass that encouragement along to the next generation of leaders. Congratulations and best wishes to the Class of 2018. To infinity and beyond.”

Staff report