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
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
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.