HendersonvilleNews Stories

New grads frolic, honor memories and civic service

West Henderson’s 261 graduating seniors are making quite a splash — on this water slide on campus. At lower left, Dante Padilla (red shorts) splashes with legs in the air. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

West Henderson had 261 grads, North Henderson 241, East over 200 and HHS 150. A few dozen graduated from Early College, and 79 from Balfour Education Center’s alternative school.

In closing days, weeks after proms, special senior activities included North’s annual picnic in Jackson Park and West’s new water slide treat. Grads-to-be grinned sliding on a sprinkler-slicked tarpaulin, nearly 30 feet down a steep hill by a practice field. East seniors’ last hurrah was at a yearbook autograph signing. Hendersonville’s Move Up Assembly had 76 types of scholarships and awards, and passing of the torch from graduating seniors to the new senior class.

Hendersonville graduating seniors sing to rising seniors, in the Move Up Assembly Friday. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

New grads face pivotal crossroads educationally, socially then professionally. HHS senior class president Victoria Schandevel, in Move Up Friday morning, urged classmates to cherish times together and futures including positive impact they can make. Commencement speakers that evening gave various encouragements.

In a tradition, rising HHS seniors en masse stood and sang a pop song (This is Not Goodbye” by Sidewalk Prophets) to graduating seniors, who then sang (Molly Cyrus’ “I’ll Remember You”) to juniors to end the school year. Then seniors filed outside and mingled, hours before graduating. Andrew Burns said grads practiced the song for five hours the day before. Burns, who eyes a nursing career, calls the 2016 class “close like family.”


HHS graduating seniors file out of school, on Friday. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Mike Schmidt, the record-setting quarterback and three-sport standout with a 4.8 GPA, said he went beyond usual (i.e. athletic) friends and “got closer” to others in final weeks. He is heading to the Air Force Academy.

Graduation triggered memories for 2015 local grads, who finished a year of college. HHS’ Sarah Kassem felt ahead of UNC-Greensboro classmates, and “more involved in class discussions.” She credits HHS course knowledge, study habits and being used to a heavy work load from advanced placement courses. Human Geography prepped her for college cultural anthropology. Her brother Adham Kassem, rising UNC-Charlotte sophomore, said at HHS he learned “thinking critically,” analyzing and “tackling convoluted (i.e. pre-calculus) material.”

East Henderson’s Sarah Grace Paul, homecoming queen for the school and entire state, signs a yearbook as other graduating seniors do the same on May 27. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

East Henderson celebrities include homecoming queen Sarah Grace Paul, of Saluda. She won the state contest April 23, partly on civics and youth issues, and vies for America’s Homecoming Queen, July 27-31 in Memphis. As a finalist, she gets a scholarship. The four-sport athlete will go to “App State,” to study psychology. She is a role model for achievement, leadership and “how you act.”

Kendall Burgess, at left, signs a yearbook for East colleague Makayla Bailey (at center). Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Daniel Hill is proud of the East yearbook photo of him with his 1970 Chevelle. He will study auto mechanics at BRCC. Kendall Burgess called it “bittersweet” to fraternize in yearbook-signing May 27, yet part ways. She will study in Paul Mitchell’s cosmetology school in Greenville, S.C.

West’s top graduating students include Leah Dorn (5.0 GPA), Carlie Gillespie who also heads to N.C. State, Amy Reisman (UNC-C) and Emily Turpin (App. St.). They hung out at the yearbook signing June 2, ahead of the water slide which Gillespie termed a fun “adventure.” West has been “a home for me” — especially band, saxophonist Reisman said. Dorn said “the people are most important” to her West memories.

West Falcons whoop it up, before water-sliding en masse. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

West has just brought in Joey Bryson (West ’95), its career basketball scoring leader, to coach varsity hoops. This further boosts Falcon athletics, along with revived football. Cornerback Dante Padilla, conference leader with five interceptions, sees lifelong gains from teamwork. “You learn accountability, to do your job and how others depend on you,” he said. He is going to UNCC, to study business and communication.

Allyson Corhn Warren, who teaches gym at West, helps coach volleyball. That is likely West’s biggest legacy sport of all. She was on Lady Falcon squads that won state titles in 2003 and ’04. Players now “embrace” the winning heritage. She said it spurs team “bonding” that is her top memory, a dozen years later.

Turpin wants to teach elementary school, and “not stay on a topic too long” to better retain class focus.

North Henderson graduating seniors, after concluding a group photo for The Tribune, were encouraged by principal John Shepard to ham it up. They did. Three joined retiring (after 47 years) teacher Dot Case, below others. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

North Henderson’s picnic napkins read “The Tassel was worth the Hassle.” Parents put on the picnic, June 9 in Jackson Park following graduation rehearsal at the school stadium. Activities included tossing bags at board “corn holes,” basketball and soccer. “This is the last time I’ll see most of them,” Meg Burgess realized.

Above all, North’s 2016 class reflects local teens helping others in their community. The class raised $26,000 for Mission Children’s Hospital, to help build a teen room for pediatric oncology patients. This nearly doubled the $15,000 target, working with the Vs. Cancer Foundation of Raleigh. It also triples North’s average amount raised to combat cancer, in seven prior years.

Star athlete Cole McCarson leaps in a pickup basketball game in Jackson Park, at North Henderson’s senior picnic a day before graduating. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Students raised money in 2015-16 from such events as Volley(ball) for the Cure tailgate and Corn Hole tourney. To honor the fundraising, principal John Shepard dyed his beard purple, the main school color. Volleyball head coach Sue Moon shaved her head and, weeks earlier, teachers kissed a goat.

Several Knights said the cause was personalized by knowing a North junior who has cancer, yet played softball. They also can see their impact, in the teen room. “It’s pretty cool the kids can hang out there,” Meg Burgess said. She aspires to cure cancer, as a genetic engineer.

Kelsey Laughter feels “humbled,” to help those with cancer. She is going to N.C. State. She wants to be an agriculture attorney, helping local farm families such as hers stay in the field. Her grandfather is Bud Laughter, in Edneyville.

Megan Edwards led the fundraising. “It feels really great to help those with cancer,” she said. She wants to teach at North Henderson, and coach volleyball and softball. She admires longtime Coach Moon for “leading by example. She’s passionate about volleyball and in the classroom” teaching leadership, civics and psychology.

Dot Case, whom NHHS honored June 9, has retired after teaching 47 years at Edneyville and (history at) North Henderson.

Share this story
Show More

Related Articles