‘This is just the beginning’

Sommore Terry, featured speaker for Scotland High School’s Baccalaureate Service, cracks a grin while instructing her fellow Scotland High School seniors to stand up and shout out where they see themselves in the years to come.

Eschewing the decorum she promised her daughter, Umeko Terry-Leak encourages the audience to join her in jubilant praise.

Nyjel Graham performs, along with the Imani Gospel Choir.

Maya Addai embraces the family of Coty Haywood, a Scotland High senior who died in a car accident on Dec. 21. A candle burned near Haywood’s photo as audience members struggled to keep their composure.

LAURINBURG — At an emotional Baccalaureate Service on Tuesday night, Scotland High School seniors sang and shouted the praises of the God who they credited with helping them reach their life’s latest milestone, while tearfully remembering a classmate who many said will be watching Saturday’s graduation service from above.

Coty Haywood, killed in a car accident on Dec. 21, was referred to as a “resting angel” by senior Maya Addai, who embraced the 18-year-old’s tearful family on the stage of Scotland High’s auditorium during the service dedicated in her memory.

“The way I feel about it, she’s at a friend’s house and just hasn’t come home yet,” said Ricky Haywood, Coty’s older brother. “… Saturday, as ya’ll walk across that stage, she’s going to be there too.”

As Addai said, the class of 2015 has been through a lot, and is stronger for it. Anticipating the mark the class will leave on the world, she added, “you haven’t seen anything yet.”

But student body president Sommore Terry, the night’s guest speaker, told her classmates that much depends on their attitude.

“You have had two friends that you never knew about — one was grace and the other was mercy,” she said, to applause. “It is all because of them that we have come this far. Many of our classmates have been through trials and tests. But those that believe they will pass will become prosperous.

“Our track should be on succeeding, gaining that education, and being a responsible adult. … It’s what on the inside that counts. It’s time to get ready. … Life waits for absolutely no one.

“Remember these seven things. Enjoy your family and friends before they are gone. Live off your parents as long as possible. Pursue joy, not happiness. … When life puts you down, in certain situations, don’t say ‘why me,’ say ‘try me.’ And most importantly, continue to like yourself — or change yourself until you can like yourself.”

Ending her address by easing into the notes of a gospel song, Terry brought the audience to their feet.

Abbi Overfelt can be reached at 910-506-3023.