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Local high schoolers celebrate memories, graduate Friday


West Henderson seniors gather for their senior picnic. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

North Henderson (on May 15), then West, then East Henderson public high schools held senior picnics on successive Fridays in May. The Hendersonville High (HHS) picnic was rained out last fall and was not rescheduled.

HHS 2014-15 achievements soared into perspective June 1, as students were honored for academic, athletic, civic and other merit. Other high schools held such awards assemblies.

Kaitlyn Capps received HHS’ Tom E. Orr Leadership Award, largely for civic projects such as to help local homeless. “I love leadership,” she told The Tribune. “I put passion into it.” She will study “pre-med” at UNC-Chapel Hill. She said the HHS Leadership Class had an “unbelievable bond. We hang out with each other nearly all of the time.”

North Henderson has 238 on track to get diplomas pending final test results; West has 235, East 198, HHS 150, Balfour Education Center 61 and Early College High School has 46, according to the central office.

Retired Balfour Elementary principal Corum Smith is proud the old school is used for alternative-vocational training and often with Blue Ridge Community College instructors. Fields include auto mechanics, fire rescue, mechatronics, interior design, and business.

Picnics were at the football fields, with cookout or pizza lunches, mild weather and activities such as a bean bag toss. East Henderson had volleyball and badminton. Pickup soccer emerged at West.

North students navigated the N.C. Army National Guard’s giant air mattress obstacle course, as dance music blared. Multi-sport athlete Lori Simpson ran, crawled and climbed well on it. She relished seeing longtime friends.

West Student Body V.P. Hope Erwin viewed the senior picnic as more enjoyable than in-school gatherings, and the graduation ceremony. “This is the last time many of us will be together in a social environment,” she said. “We’re like a family.” She said picnic conversations typically were about college and summer plans.

Looking back, she is proud the Student Body initiated a fall formal homecoming dance that drew more than 300 students. Skyler Villegas, who plans a chemistry major, described West’s picnic as “relaxing. It’s a lot of fun to hang out, and see everybody again.”

Video gaming in West’s Games and Strategy Club has video which was a fun extracurricular for Jacob Reisman, who ran track. He eyes a career in film production.

Cody Jackson, fastest football Falcon, said “it meant a lot to me” that multi-year starters went out with a strong senior campaign. He enjoyed picnic fellowship. Jackson wants to work in youth ministry and study initially in local Fruitland Baptist Bible College.

After East’s senior picnic, yearbooks were distributed and signed as undergrads joined the crowd. This was a favorite segment for orchestra violinist Gabe Roberts, viola player Maggie McKenzie and cellist Valentina Konko.


East’s Sam Hargrove (at left) and Jacob Jenkins teamed in badminton. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Eagle football players got into a whirlwind badminton match. Cameron Johnson was intense about winning shots, Sam Hargrove very vocal and jovial.

“Completely together” is Delaney Wollinger’s memory of East seniors. She spoke soon after smacking a volleyball winner. Emily Holbert, 2014 N.C. Apple ambassador, said “it’s nice we’re all together — outside.”

A special treat was hearing a new East faculty rock cover band of Carrie Morrison on keyboard and lead vocals, electric guitarists Clay Gaitskill and Doug Justice, bassist Jeff Floyd, drummer Scott Cowan, and guest (and alumnus) Steve Whiteside on guitar.

Hendersonville’s Adham Kassem is glad he worked (as a Carolina Village dining room server) for two years, while in high school. “This makes me more independent and stable financially,” as a step toward college and a career. He plans to study computer science, at UNC-Charlotte.

His sister Sarah Kassem also graduates Friday. She will likely major in international business, at UNC-Greensboro. She will miss wisdom and guidance of teachers, and camaraderie of class friends and other student actors. “They were so nice and funny to be around,” she said. “We had such closeness, togetherness.”

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