North Rowan students graduate
By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — Even as North Rowan High School recognized three members of the Class of 2011 whose lives were lost, the graduation ceremony Saturday was anything but somber.
Thunderous applause and standing ovations greeted family members who accepted posthumous diplomas on their behalf in the Keppel Auditorium at Catawba College.
At the start of the ceremony, an estimated 141 graduates filed down two aisles to their seats onstage while pianist Kimberly Lentz played Pomp and Circumstance.
Senior Class President Jessica Erwin welcomed the crowd and made introductory remarks.
“After a senior year full of highs — like our sports teams winning two state championships — and lows — like the passing of our fellow graduates who should be here with us tonight,” Erwin said, “we are about to start the next chapter of our lives.”
Ashtyn Kepley, class salutatorian, said lost classmates Nicholas Harper, Tony Ramsey and Patrick Snider touched the lives of the Class of 2011 “in ways that we will never forget, and they will always hold a special place in our hearts.”
“We need to dream dreams worthy of what they would want us to — worthy of who we are and who we can become,” Kepley said. “Graduation marks our time to break the mold. This is our time to make an impact on the world.”
Joshua Price, class valedictorian, also encouraged members of the Class of 2011 to follow their dreams.
“Let’s celebrate our differences while acknowledging that we all have dreams, and don’t be afraid to make your dreams a reality,” Price said.
They are worth following, he said, no matter how they started out — whether the aspiring baseball player now wants to be a physical therapist, the ladybug doctor-to-be now hopes to be a reformer, or the yellow Power Ranger in training now strives to become a nurse.
“As we receive these diplomas, we are another step closer to reaching our goal of becoming that nurse, that reformer, that engineer or that teacher,” Price said.
The North Rowan Connection Choir then sang “Total Praise,” the auditorium barely containing their strong voices.
The ceremony didn’t get much quieter as the graduates proudly walked across the stage to receive their diplomas.
Families and friends clapped, cheered and yelled their approval.
The occasion was bittersweet for David and Jennifer Snider, who accepted a posthumous diploma for their son, Patrick. He died in July, when he was 17 years old, after a seven-month battle with testicular cancer. He had been a pitcher on North Rowan’s baseball team.
“It meant a whole lot to us that they remember Patrick,” Jennifer Snider said after the ceremony.
While the two were onstage, Principal Darrell McDowell told them “if there’s anything we need, he’s there for us.”
Accepting a posthumous diploma for Tony Ramsey were his mother and sister, Stacy and Anisha McCluney.
In August 2007, when Ramsey was 15 years old, he was walking along West Innes Street with two friends when he was struck and killed by a vehicle in a hit-and-run accident. He had attended North Rowan Middle School and would have been a freshman at the high school.
Stacy McCluney said it means a lot that her son was recognized at the North Rowan graduation.
“He wasn’t here to receive a diploma, but we got it for him,” she said. “He was with the Class of 2011 in memory and in spirit.”
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
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