Seniors celebrate graduation, remember those with whom they could not share the day

By Jonathan E. Coleman
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On a day meant to celebrate accomplishment and relish in the memories of high school, students from both Central Cabarrus High School and Jay M. Robinson High School took time to remember the difficult lessons of loss, and reflect on those who couldn’t share graduation day with them.
Separated by only 10 miles, the two schools were united in grief as each held their own commencement exercises.
Central Cabarrus students remembered Andy Janda and Michael Martin, two students killed in an automobile wreck who would have graduated this year.
“Although it has been over a year and a half since their accident, we continue to reflect,” said Corey Plott, senior class president, in a memorium to the two students. “As you walk out of the door today, don’t be afraid that your life will end. Be afraid that it will never begin.”
Robinson students reflected on the life of Ben Parsons, a teacher and friend to many who died last October.
“Through our tears, we celebrated the man we’d grown to love and proved that we won’t stop beliving,” said student body president, Taylor Thomas. “Today is our day. Make today a day of joy instead of sadness, and if trouble lies ahead, stay strong and never stop beliving.”
Speakers at both graduations mentioned the shootings at Virgina Tech and the impact that event had on students, many of whom will head to college next fall.
“This not only caused us to appreciate and cherish our loved ones, but it also taught us to celebrate each moment, and for that, we are all Hokies,” said Robinson’s Jevay Thompson.
In the end, students from both schools realized the valuable lessons they learned outside the classroom — lessons of perseverance, even in the face of difficult, tragic moments.
“As we reflect on the last four years, it’s obvious that each of us have experienced joy, heartache, laughter and tears,” Central Cabarrus’ Natalie Lutz told her classmates. “As a class, we have experienced many tragedies and triumphs. Through the dark times, our class has emerged victorious.”
Through the tragedy, she added, friendships and memories were made that will last a lifetime.
“We met strangers who became friends and kept friends who became family along the way,” she said. “No matter what the future holds, we’ve made memories that will never fade.”
In his message to Robinson’s class of 2007 Cabarrus County Schools Superintendent Harold Winkler said some of the most difficult things in life produce the most rewarding results.
Winkler told the graduates his story of struggling to reach the summit of Mount Everest, a feat he tackled last year to raise money for the Jeff Gordon’s Children’s Hospital at NorthEast Medical Center.
“I thought about giving up,” he said. “Then I thought about the 28,000 students who had in some way helped raise $80,000. I knew I couldn’t give up.
“That’s one of those times I had to dig a little deeper and make something happen that I just didn’t think would happen. But it’s well worth it.
“You are going to be called upon to do some things when you don’t think you can do it. I say to you, ‘Stick with it.’”

• Contact Jonathan E Coleman at [email protected] or 704-789-9105.

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