Cross the stage, turn the tassel

Raleigh News & ObserverJune 14, 2013 

Thousands of students graduated from local high schools this week.

For the grads, a new stage of life begins. Many will head to college in a couple of months. Some will join the military. Others will enter the work force.

But first, they posed for cameras in their caps and gowns, hugged friends and classmates and celebrated with their loved ones.

Here’s a snapshot of the class of 2013. Local students earned millions of dollars in scholarships and adopted words of wisdom to live by.

And class valedictorians offer some advice.

Athens Drive High School

Valedictorian: Taylor Cesarski

Salutatorians: Rita Meganck, John A. Nance

Class co-presidents: Mikayla E. Raleigh, Paul A. Tanner

Number of graduates: 392

Sum of scholarships awarded: about $5 million

Class motto: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own and you know what you know. And you are the one who will decide where you go.” – Dr. Seuss

Advice from valedictorian: “Do what you feel like makes the most difference and you can change the world with, not something society tells you that you should do,” said Taylor, 17, who plans to attend Elon University in the fall to study mathematics. She wants to be a high school math teacher.

“(A) reason I want to go into the math education field is that many high school students these days often feel defeated before they step into a math classroom because they believe that math is impossible,” she said. “I hope to share my passion for math with these students and inspire them to believe that they can do math.”

Apex High School

Valedictorian: A.. Gabriel DeCaro

Salutatorian: Neil Wathore

Class president: Preston Swaim

Number of graduates: 559

Sum of scholarships awarded: More than $5,032,280

Class motto: “Life’s a climb, but the view is great.” – Miley Cyrus

Advice from valedictorian: “Be yourself,” said DeCaro, 18. “By maintaining your own unique identity, it’ll help you be happier and more confident.”

DeCaro plans to study nuclear engineering, physics and Spanish at N.C. State University. He wants to be a professor.

Cary High School

Valedictorian: Woo Jean Lee

Salutatorians: Olivia Wood, Josh Horowitz

Class president: Gaby Ngangola

Graduates: 522

Sum of scholarships awarded: $3,045,000

Class motto: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you’ve said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

Green Hope High School

Valedictorian: Kevin Xiao

Salutatorian: Maria Jahja

Graduates: 475

Class president: Morgan Bush

Sum of scholarships awarded: $3,238,697

Class motto: “Go forward confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau

All about the details: Kevin Xiao, 17, proceeds calmly and carefully when he faces a complicated problem – which he’ll see plenty of in Columbia University’s engineering school.

“I’m similar to a perfectionist. I’m not saying I’m perfect, but for an assignment I would try to look for every single aspect of how to accomplish this task in the best way possible,” said Kevin,. who founded a student-run tennis teaching program. “I think very thoroughly, from all these different aspects. I pay a lot of attention to these little details.”

Middle Creek High School

Valedictorian: Daniel Dumitrescu

Salutatorian: Amanie Khairullah

Class president: Tyler Montague

Number of graduates: 388

Sum of scholarships awarded: more than $3.5 million

Class motto: “Remember yesterday, dream for tomorrow, love for today.”

Advice from valedictorian: “Do what you love. Find what you love and pursue it. Do not do a job for money. Do things for their intrinsic value,” said Dumitrescu, 18. “The reason I was so successful in high school was because I was doing things I loved.”

Dumitrescu split his time between piano, soccer and academics. He plans to major in biology at Duke University. He wants to become a neurosurgeon.

Panther Creek High School

Valedictorian: Sameer Kak

Salutatorian: Steven Hee

Class president: Cannon King

Number of graduates: 560

Sum of scholarships awarded: $6,686,986

Class gift, in conjunction with the class of 2012: $4,025 for a large model catamount, which is the school mascot

Advice from the valedictorian: “Look around. Explore,” said Kak. “Take advantage of everything you have.”

An internship at the National Institutes of Health informed Kak’s plans to study biology at the University of North Carolina.

Quality experiences can guide students to their interests. And interests, he said, are more important than GPAs.


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