As the cohort of eight who marked their high school graduation inside Shaw Academy’s cafeteria on Friday turned their tassels to the left, they marked the close of a course strewn with obstacles.
Of the graduates, seven completed work toward their high school diploma through the Twilight Success Academy, offered through Scotland County Schools and instructed by Dr. Terry Franklin. The academy accepts students aged 17 to 21 who have not yet received a high school diploma and are not enrolled in school.
“Any time that we can get kids who have had some problems coming through school to get to this point and graduate, I think it’s wonderful,” said Shaw Academy principal John Teal. “The love and concern of the parents, who kept pushing and encouraging them, you could see that here today.”
The Twilight program also allows students more flexible schedules than would a traditional program, so that students can attend part-time.
“I’m glad to be finished,” said Alex Lowery, a Twilight student graduating after a five-year high school career. “I had a medical issue that prevented me from being able to attend Scotland High full time, so thanks to the Twilight program, I was able to graduate.”
Lowery hopes to find work for a year before enrolling in college to study computer science. The sole Shaw Academy graduate, Shauna Tripoli, has made obtaining an associate’s degree in architectural technology her next goal.
“I’m glad and sad to be graduating,” she said. “I’m going to miss all of my friends, and I like school, but I’m going to continue at Sandhills Community College.”
During the ceremony, student speaker Epiphany Thomas could not contain her emotion as she recounted the difficulties she and her fellow students have faced and exhorted them to look ahead to the obstacles they have yet to encounter.
“Many nights some of us had to shed some tears because we felt that our very best just wasn’t good enough,” said Thomas. “The road will not be easy, but we must remain steadfast to achieve our goals. Our journeys are our testimonies that we can share with others. We should also share this accomplishment today, because it is a big one which was worth fighting for in this scary, unpredictable world that we live in.”
As keynote speaker, the Rev. Dr. Jesse Brunson compared the Twilight students’ journey to the parable of the Tortoise and the Hare. Brunson encouraged them to persevere in the face of adversity, although they may see others whose journeys seem easier.
“I know you’ve finished one course of your race, but you still have another course to go,” Brunson said. “You can go on to college, you can go on to graduate school. You can do whatever you want to do with your life, because the race is not given to the swift, but to he or she that endures to the end. Don’t be distracted by people who are much more intelligent and have more advantages, but stay the course. Keep your eyes lifted up.”
He also applauded them for making the choice to return to school, or to continue despite circumstances that could have relegated education to an afterthought.
“As people we can choose our own destiny through the people we associate with, the choices we make,” said Brunson. “Our destiny is in our hands. There were times in your life when someone said to you: ‘I wouldn’t go to school if I was you, I wouldn’t make that choice,’ but you chose your destiny.”
Also graduating from Twilight Success Academy were Leah Clark, Antwone Easterling, Kurt Fehlman, Keenan Sanchez-Silva, and Dylan Walters.