Weaverville – North Buncombe High celebrated the end of a triumphant year at Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville on Sunday, June 5. The 2:00 pm ceremony was sandwiched between AC Reynolds’ and TC Roberson’s graduations. This is the first year that the school held graduation in the arena space—the ceremony usually takes place in the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. NB gave students an unlimited amount of tickets at the nearly maskless event.
Beautiful flowers and plants, courtesy of Becky’s Florist and Sales Greenhouses, adorned the stage. Just beneath, in the pit area, were rows of chairs for graduates and NB faculty. Families and friends flooded the stadium seats. In the wait time, a video played with congratulations from faculty and peers.
The ceremony commenced with the faculty taking their seats behind those designated for students, donning academic regalia. Next, the 213 graduates filled the rows and the NJROTC color guard presented the colors. The NB chamber choir ensemble’s national anthem played via video on the jumbotron.
Words of Wisdom
NB principal, Dr. Samatha Sircey, welcomed attendees and remarked how the whole year has been an unprecedented “journey” for both educators and students. Remarkably, the graduating seniors learned online for nearly a year of high school.
“Seniors, collectively, have all had to face the reality of life during a pandemic. Words used to describe students today are resilient, determined and driven. I don’t disagree with these descriptions of you. But individually, I’ve seen other traits you possess,” Dr. Sircey reflected.
“You work hard and are wise, creative, funny, talented, intelligent and strong. Not just this year, not just in the face of a global pandemic, but every day, in everything that you do. It’s been a joy to spend time with you while watching you navigate around education.”
Dr. Sircey challenged the students to keep learning beyond their years in high school. The principal journeyed with this class of students since seventh grade, in her first year as principal at NB Middle School. She became principal of NB High School in 2017, the class of 2021’s freshman year of high school.
“Take all that you’ve learned from high school with you as you go out into the world. I can’t go with you this time, but I know you’re prepared for every challenge your way. I’m so very proud of all of you. Go out there and show the world what Blackhawks can do,” Dr. Sircey said.
Valedictorian Raquel Winker, who is attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, followed with her own speech. Winker moved to Weaverville from Ventura, California shortly before freshman year of high school. Optimistic about the future, Winker acknowledged her peers’ resilience and predicted each graduate will find great success.
“We all have the inner power to change the world. But in order to do so, we must be willing to accept the possibility of loss and failure,” Winker said. “As we step into the next part of our lives, we have to be okay with the fact that not everything will be handed to us. In order to create the lives we want to have, to take risks and be bold.”
Four choral seniors followed with the song “I Am Your Dreamer” by Pinkzebra. Aarionna Clacker, Raegan Metcalf, Alexis McElrath and Masen Sherrill harmonized to the melancholic song.
Student elected speaker and student body president Eliza Van Lokeren, who is also attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was the last student speaker. Notably, she also spoke at the class of 2021’s eighth grade promotion. Van Lokeren reflected on the emotional closeness of the graduating class and memories they shared together.
“It is our generosity, ambition, forgiveness and vulnerability with one another that have altered our lives,” Van Lokeren reminisced. “Oftentimes I’ve been told in life, ‘we want you to have something it’s so difficult to say goodbye to.’ Although that may be true, I would argue however we have something we will always take with us. Each other.”
Presentation of Diplomas
Dr. Sircey began presenting the diplomas with teachers Chris and Jenny Zimmerman announcing graduates’ names. Some seniors placed plastic leis around Dr. Sircey’s neck after accepting their diplomas. After all graduates, with last names from Alexander to Wyatt, crossed the stage, the room let out a collective cheer.