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Summer feeding program offers meals for students at 18 school sites

Gaston County Schools has transitioned its “Grab and Go” meal program to its annual Summer Feeding Program, but students and parents will not notice much change.
Meals this summer are being distributed at 18 school sites.  The sites listed below also were used this spring for the “grab and go” program.
In addition to the Cherryville and Bessemer City locations at Cherryville Elementary School, 700 East Academy St., Cherryville, Bessemer City High School, 119 Yellow Jacket Ln., Bessemer City, and Tryon Elementary School, 2620 Tryon Courthouse Rd., Bessemer City; additional sites are as follows: Ashbrook High School, 2222 South New Hope Rd., Gastonia; H.H. Beam Elementary School, 200 Davis Park Rd., Gastonia; Brookside Elementary School, 1925 Auten Rd., Gastonia; Carr Elementary School, 307 South Pine St., Dallas; Chapel Grove Elementary School, 5201 Lewis Rd., Gastonia; Grier Middle School, 1622 East Garrison Blvd., Gastonia; Holbrook Middle School, 418 South Church St., Lowell|; Hunter Huss High School, 1518 Edgefield Ave., Gastonia; Kiser Elementary School, 311 East College St., Stanley; Mount Holly Middle School, 124 South Hawthorne St., Mount Holly; North Belmont Elementary School, 210 School St., Belmont; Robinson Elementary School, 3122 Union Rd., Gastonia; Warlick Academy, 1316 Spencer Mountain Rd., Gastonia; Webb Street School, 1623 North Webb St., Gastonia; and Woodhill Elementary School, 1027 Woodhill Dr., Gastonia.
At each location, distribution takes place on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, from 10:30 a.m. until 12:00 noon. A meal for Friday is provided on Thursday.
How does the program work?
When you arrive at the meal pickup site that is most convenient for you, look for the school nutrition personnel in the front parking lot. Then, go to the distribution area and ask for a meal. The meal will be packaged in a bag.
The meal will be provided to children (age 18 and younger) free-of-charge. You should plan to take the meal with you – there is not a place to eat on-site.
You may pick up a meal at any of the sites, regardless of where you live or attend school.
If you have a question about our summer feeding program, please call (704) 836-9110.
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The Cherryville High School front lot and turnaround area shortly after it was scraped on Tuesday, June 23. (photo by MEP/The Eagle)

Thanks to school bond dollars Cherryville High School parking lots scraped, and ready for paving

Cost of the CHS parking lot paving is approximately $230,000

by MICHAEL E. POWELL
Editor
michael@cfmedia.info

The front and back parking lots of Cherryville High School are scraped and ready for paving thanks to funds allocated by the $250 million school bond referendum.
Gaston County School Communications Director Todd Hagans spoke to this fact by noting that when voters overwhelmingly approved a $250 million school bond referendum, it marked what he termed in a media release from GCS’ office, “the beginning of a new era – an exciting time for new school construction, school additions, and renovations and repairs.”
Hagans elaborated in the release, “A multi-year effort is in place to use the bond funds. The first allotment of $60 million is providing money for construction of the new Belmont Middle School ($40 million) and addressing critical renovations and repairs at 25 schools ($20 million).
“A number of projects, ranging from roof replacements and parking lot paving to new gym floors and new windows/doors, are already complete while others are in progress or development.”
Hagans mentioned that among the most significant projects are roof replacements, citing roofing work that has taken place at Southwest Middle School and South Point High School, and improvements that are planned at six more schools – East Gaston, Highland, Mount Holly, Beam Intermediate, Page, and North Gaston.
He continued, “Paving (of driveways/parking lots) is complete at Webb Street, Grier, New Hope, and Cherryville Elementary with work scheduled in the near future at Carr and Cherryville High (CHS).”
The work at CHS has begun as of June 23, according to Principal Kevin Doran, who noted the front and back lots have been scraped already by Barton Contracting.
Said Doran, “They came by on Tuesday, June 23, literally before the sun came up and knocked out the front parking lot and turnaround area.”
Additionally, they scraped the back lot, the buses having been moved prior to that a few days before to the lot across from the high school in order to facilitate that work. The side lot, near the CHS practice field, has not yet been scraped, nor is it known if that was to have been included with the already scraped lots.
On Thursday, July 2, Mr. Hagans noted via email the cost of the CHS parking lot paving is approximately $230,000.
Hagans also noted other improvements also are being made and those are to athletic facilities, which included a new gym floor at John Chavis Middle School and new baseball field lights at North Gaston High School.
Said Hagans, “Other school projects focus on electrical/lighting, HVAC, plumbing, flooring, and life safety (cameras, intercoms, and alarms).
“With only $60 million allocated for the first round of work, that leaves $190 million for new construction and more renovations/repairs in the years ahead.”
For those wishing to stay up to date on what’s going on with the school bonds, Mr. Hagans noted you can do so by visiting the Gaston County Schools website.
“You’ll find information about the bonds, the allocation of funds by townships, upcoming and completed projects, and much more at www.gaston.k12.nc.us/schoolbonds2018,” he said.





 
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Pastor Dale Hendricks (far left) and members of the Shady Grove Ad Hoc Committee, at the Sunday, June 21, Father’s Day ceremonial groundbreaking for the new church sanctuary.

Shady Grove Baptist Church groundbreaking for new sanctuary

by ANNE S. HAYNES
Special to the Eagle


Sunday, June 21, 2020 will be remembered as an historical milestone in the history of Shady Grove Baptist Church of Cherryville.
In the outdoor setting at the church, the special day began with reverent messages in song by Choir Director Joe Heffner, followed by soloist Kathy Bumgardner and a Father’s Day message by Shady Grove’s Pastor Dale Hendricks.
Church historian and parliamentarian Charles Haynes spoke of the history of Shady Grove Baptist Church of Cherryville. He explained how 32 members organized Shady Grove under a brush arbor on Highway 274, south of Cherryville in 1881.
The church in the “grove of trees” was followed by the present-day sanctuary in 1951, an Educational Building in 1964, and the Family Life Center in 1992. He pondered the question of when might we need more space.
Former Shady Grove pastor, Rev. Keith Hollar was present as the leader of the “Building Through Faith” Campaign. This campaign brought together past and present church members who desire for Shady Grove to grow and to continue to be the church in the “grove of trees” that will reach out with the message of Jesus Christ.
Father’s Day was an appropriate day to break ground for a new sanctuary that will be a place of worship where it began in the community so many years earlier.
As many church members and visitors watched, the Ad Hoc Committee, with shovels in hand, ceremoniously broke the ground for the new sanctuary immediately following Rev. Hollar’s prayer of dedication.
Special thanks were expressed by Pastor Hendricks to the Ad Hoc Committee, Building Through Faith Committee, Alliance Bank
See SHADY, Page 4
Shady

From Page 1
and Trust, Architect Jerry McGinnis, Morrison Construction, A&A Grading, and Rev. Hollar.
Pastor Hendricks also remembered that Shady Grove has lost four faithful members recently. Elizabeth Hovis, Harold Jackson, Hillard Hester, and Janice Beam all wanted to see the construction of the new sanctuary. Each one of them surely had a special place in the hearts of many church members during the sanctuary groundbreaking.
Pastor Dale was instrumental in leading the congregation in carrying out this important phase in the life of Shady Grove and the community, and the church is grateful for his Spirit-led leadership.
In closing the service, Pastor Hendricks quoted Psalm 127:1, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” Special scripture indeed for a special day.
To God be the glory!


 
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Some of the Houser Drug staff who, like their medical and pharmaceutical counterparts in Cherryville, Gaston County, and North Carolina, are all our Hometown “Heroes Who Work Here”. Working that day (June 25) left to right were: Sarah Gatza, Jill Parker-Puett, Pharmacist and store co-owner Tim Moss, Barry Heavner, and Dawson Long. (photo by MEP/The Eagle)

Houser Drug pharmacy staff stay vigilant during COVID pandemic

They’ve been in harm’s way before and know God is watching out for them

by MICHAEL E. POWELL
Editor
michael@cfmedia.info

(Ed. Note: This is Part Four of the Eagle’s “Heroes Work Here” series showcasing those in our small community who work hard to make all of us safer during the coronavirus pandemic.)

The staff and employees of Houser Drug have more than a passing interest in this 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.
As health care workers, like doctors and nurses, they and other fellow pharmacists and pharmacy techs who live and work in Cherryville, are essential to their community as front-line troops in the fight against this insidious, seemingly hard-to-kill little pest that ruins lives physically and economically. Theirs is a constant vigilance against an unseen but deadly enemy.
Houser Drug has been a Cherryville business since 1935, said co-owner and Pharmacist Tim Moss. Moss has been a Pharmacist since 1988, with 28 of his professional years spent at Houser Drug. Tim said he believes the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic is one of the worst viral epidemics the U.S., or the world, has faced in recent history.
“I feel the media has taken this (COVID-19) to a heightened level. We hate to see it come, and we weren’t prepared for it.”
Moss noted that he and his peers in the medical community see many immuno-compromised people, such as people who have diabetes, various types of cancer, high-blood pressure, stroke, or older patients on a daily basis. He said they see how these folks are having to deal with it so they try to do their part daily to help make things better for them, as well as for the employees of Houser Drug.
“We’ve been wiping down everything in the store daily. If one of our employees has a fever, we’ve told them to stay home,” he said. “In this business we’re at risk every day. My job is to deal with sick people every day, but I don’t think of myself as a hero. My reward is to see people healthy and whole.”
Moss said he and his employees treat their clients and customers like family, adding he doesn’t let money or profit-making drive his decisions, because, as he says, “I know what business we’re in – health care.”
Moss and his employees who have been with him a while are aware of what an epidemic looks and feels like as they have been through a number of them in the past.
Said Tim, “We’ve been in harm’s way before and we know God is watching out for us. The bottom line though is that I hope and pray it all works out and we can flatten the curve or get a vaccine soon. We want everybody to stay safe, but life has to resume at some point in time.”
Houser Drug employee Jill Parker-Puett knows their staff has gone the distance, and is practicing social distancing in their store.
“We have to protect ourselves while taking care of others. We know the masks (they have to wear) and hand washing are protecting us,” she said.
Parker-Puett, who has been with Houser Drug for 11 years, was an EMT for over 20 years, but nothing she has seen to date, she noted, “is equal to this (the pandemic).”
Said Parker-Puett, “Some folks don’t know they have it so it, so the masks and hand washing do help. Also, we’re testing a whole lot more than when this first started.
“Personally, I feel bad for those who have loved ones in a care facility or the hospital who lose or have lost loved ones and couldn’t be there with them in their hour of need.”
Parker-Puett noted she and the folks at Houser Drug, and all the other pharmacies and medical clinics, nursing homes, doctor’s offices, and such are “uniquely poised to handle things like this.”
Sarah Gatza, who has been with Houser Drug for three years, has to be especially careful to not contract the virus as her husband Robert is a heart patient and is still under a physician’s care and watchful eye after a heart transplant at Duke. She believes that God healed her husband and made a way for him to have his new heart and they’re not taking that for granted, she said.
“I trust God to take care of me on a daily basis and to be smart, wash my hands, wear a mask, and do what I can to protect him and my family from this (COVID-19 virus). I feel everyone should do that as well, for yourselves, and for others too!”



 
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Gaston County Schools’ Principal appointments

by MICHAEL E. POWELL
Editor
michael@cfmedia.info

According to a media release from Gaston County Schools, spokesman Todd Hagans said that during their Board of Education meeting on Monday, June 15, the Board approved the following three principal appointments for the 2020-2021 academic year.
Mr. Chris Mills, previously the Director of Alternative Education, was appointed to serve as Principal at Webb Street School.
Kings Mountain resident and former CHS teacher, Matt Rikard, was appointed to serve as principal at Cherryville’s John Chavis Middle School.
Hagans noted that previously Mr. Rikard served as an assistant principal at Cramerton Middle School.
Mr. Ryan Smith was appointed to serve as Principal at H.H. Beam Elementary School.
Mr. Smith previously served as Principal for a number of years at John Chavis Middle School in Cherryville.
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Leonhardt Farms of Lincoln County had quite a bit of fresh produce for sale at the June 18, 2020 Cherryville Farmer’s Market. (photo by MEP/The Eagle)

Farmer’s Market
first day goes well

Customers glad to see familiar market back in business even if a month late in opening

by MICHAEL E. POWELL
Editor
michael@cfmedia.info

Cherryville first Farmer’s Market of 2020, a.k.a. the “quarantine year”, was well attended in spite of starting a month late and looking a little different than what most are used to seeing.
Market manager and Chamber Director Mary Beth Tackett said they had over 200 shoppers come by for the market’s first day back in business after the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown of markets across the state.
Said Mary Beth, “We had over 110 (customers) by our 8 a.m., opening, which wasn’t a bad showing for a first day of a market.”
Tackett also noted there were five vendors at this first 2020 market, with a “fan favorite” returning – Martha Pate of Pate’s Bakery, along with the other “food faves” of Lewis Farms, Leonhardt Farms and Sisk Farms. A newcomer for the CFM this year was Hospice of Cleveland County, whose booth was overseen by Krista Haynes, the Patient/Family Care Coordinator. The group is also a CFM sponsor.
If it looked like there was great space between the vendors, don’t worry, that was planned, said Mary Beth.
“We were practicing social distancing. All our vendors have to wear masks as well,” she added.
Leonhardt Farms’ vendor operators Ann Hall and Gail McGloghlin were back, as was Loyd Lewis of Lewis Farms (Fallston) and Noah Sisk of Sisk Farms.
Hall and McGloghlin both said they were glad to be back at the Cherryville Farmer’s Market. Ms. Pate agreed, saying she too was glad to be back in Cherryville at the much-loved market.
“Well, here I am! The cake and bread lady’s back! Honestly, I’ve missed everybody here in Cherryville, and I’m just gad to be back!” she said, with her characteristic big smile.
Loyd Lewis pulled his face mask down and said he too was glad to be back, adding, “It’s good to see that with this virus going on the people all came prepared, wearing their face masks. We’ll be able to continue the market with these good (heath) standards.”
Tackett noted that as the summer progresses, they will get more vendors back at the CFM.
When asked, she replied, “Yes. Freedom Farms Soaps will be back, and I am working to get new vendors added for this season.”
Customer Ron Tedder had on his face mask as he shopped for great food deals, making sure to check out each vendor before her left. He stopped to chat a bit with former CFM manager, Richard Randall, who dropped by to also pick up a few items of fresh produce before heading back to work.
Said Mr. Tedder, “I’m glad for the Cherryville market to be back open. They have great produce here!”



 
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HEROES WORK HERE!
CFD firefighters love their jobs and protecting people

by MICHAEL E. POWELL
Editor
michael@cfmedia.info

(Ed. note: This is Part Three of the Eagle’s “Heroes Work Here!” series showcasing those in our small community who work hard to make all of us in Cherryville safe during the coronavirus pandemic.)

Cherryville firefighters, like all who serve their towns and communities, along with their fellow public servants and employees, love their jobs and they love helping people.
That’s not to say it isn’t tough sometimes or that it’s easy; it’s not and many times it can be heartbreaking when things don’t go well on a call or there is imminent danger involved.
They are, as has always been said and duly noted, the ones “who rush in (toward danger) when others are rushing out (away from it).”
Nowhere is this more true than with the
two Hometown Heroes who have worked for the Cherryville Fire department for a total of 65-plus years: Capt. Chris “Pudge” Cash and Driver/Engineer Barry Heavner.
Said Barry, “I have been with the CFD for 27 years (paid); and 30 years overall.” For Chris, it has been 37 in the fire service overall; 21 of them at CFD, he noted.
Both of the men don’t think of themselves as “heroes” per se, and get a bit embarrassed by the reference, but they know that people tend to say such about firefighters and others first responders and law enforcement officers, nurses, and such during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For D/E Heavner, doing what he loves is about, “Making a difference about things, saving a life, giving a kid a smile, or watching him smile when you give him a (toy red) fire hat during Fire Day or at some school event.”
Cash agreed, adding, “For me it’s about the satisfaction of being able to help someone.”
Both said, “Doing good never gets old.”
Barry said it’s also about loving your home town (both men were born here, went to school here, and call Cherryville home).
“It used to be you knew everybody. Now, not so much as some have moved, passed away, or new people have moved here,” he said.
Captain Cash added, “Us knowing a lot of people helps us (in our job); people know us and they’re glad to see you. A familiar face goes a long way in what we do.”
Heavner agreed, saying, “Knowing there is somebody coming to help me that I can talk to. That helps a lot.”
The two firefighters know the Lord has blessed both of them as they go about their jobs.
Cash added to that by saying, “Yes. We’ve had a lot of good influences over the years. Most folks are kind of glad to see you (on a call).”
He continued. “We do a lot of things that most Fire Department’s don’t do, such as opening locked car doors, helping folks get into their houses, help with lifting folks, maybe sometimes helping them in with groceries; things like that.”
Said Heavner, “It’s the little things like that. They add up. It’s helping your community in the big things as well as in the little, or small things.”
The key, they both feel, to it all is teamwork.
Captain Cash said, “It takes all of us. All of our guys in the CFD are heroes. It’s not just us.”
Said Barry, “We all take great pride in what we do. Honestly, I never really thought about considering doing anything else. I don’t necessarily want recognition for it (being a ‘hero’). I love what I do.”
Chris indicated he feels the same way, and added, “It’s all about self-satisfaction in helping others as much as we can.”

 
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2020 CHS Valedictorian, Salutatorian Speeches Recorded And Televised

Valedictorian – Avery Grace Walker: A State Employees Credit Union Scholarship recipient; CHS Star Student Award; 2020 Gaston Gazette “Best and Brightest” recipient, numerous outstanding subject awards from CHS; college: UNC – Chapel Hill, majoring in Nursing; she wants to pursue a career in Pediatric or Geriatric Nursing. She is the daughter of Reggie and Angela Walker.

“Good morning, afternoon, or evening, whatever time you are watching this graduation. 
“I am so honored to still be able to speak to you, even if it is through a screen. First and foremost, I would like to thank everyone who has gone out of their way in the most recent events to make this class feel so special due to COVID-19. Whether that be parents, faculty, City of Cherryville personnel, or local businesses, on behalf of the entire class of 2020, thank you all. You have been a ray of sunshine to us in this series of cloudiness. 
“So, here it is… graduation day. Who would have thought that our senior year would have been cut so short and that we wouldn’t be able to see each other in the process? Our class has surely been through it all, the good times... and the not so good times. But, through everything, we knew we could count on each other to be there for whatever adversity we had to face. We were never alone.
“We have faced many losses as a class. Some of those being parents, grandparents, siblings, and even past teachers, Ms. Boyer and Mrs. Camp. Some losses were milestones in our schooling years, such as a traditional eighth grade trip, senior trip, and of course, classic senior festivities. However, we always found a way to make things better by outweighing the negative with something positive. And I feel that we have defined ourselves as being one of the strongest classes to go through Cherryville High School.
“I have been given the responsibility to expand upon our past. However, I think that the sequence of events that we have experienced together, from the beginning, is what best defines us. Our story truly began as we underwent elementary school with nap time, the Fairytale Ball, space travel, the Q&U wedding that was 100 percent real and legal, many field days, field trips, and more. We hadn’t truly defined ourselves as 'the class with the perfect vision’ until we joined together in middle school, and what a crazy place that was. 
“Middle school will be remembered by all of us as going to break, attending dances, going to the Valentines’ Dance, travelling to Gatlinburg, and being the place where we are all actually kind of embarrassed of who we were and most importantly, of how we dressed. But, sometimes unfortunately, it defines us. Through that shame, we moved on to be high schoolers. Here, we would spend 'the best four years of our lives’; but instead it would be known as the best three and three-quarter years of our lives. 
“Our true bond with one another started as we all came together for one of our classmates as her brother had passed away. We gathered together to pray for Noah, the Hampton’s, and the Cherryville community as we lost a CHS family member. Through prayer and friendship, we flourished in a dark time.
“Senior year was one to remember, though. Some of the events that we were able to experience, such as having a tailgate for a senior breakfast before our last first day of school, having the greatest homecoming and spirit week C-Ville style, driving through town in a parade all to ourselves, and even that 91-90 overtime victory over North Lincoln where Lane tied the school record in points, with the help of us Metal Heads of course, were just some of the things that were truly unforgettable. “Adversity is defined as to be an unfavorable fortune or fate, and what is more unfavorable than having a pandemic ruin everything it possibly could. Unfortunate circumstances have been presented to us in many different situations, but we have always been able to overcome whatever curveball that has been thrown at us. 
“So this, my fellow graduates, is what I believe best defines our past: our ability to overcome adversity. With this being said, if we do all things together, we are unstoppable. With that mindset, we will continue to do great things. With our story, we can illuminate the lives of others.
“Thank you all for being such a big impact in my life. Without each and every one of you and your unique personalities, our past thirteen years would not have been as memorable. To the teachers, staff, parents, honorable speakers, and most importantly, to our Lord and Savior, thank you. We would not be the class we are today without your help, support, and prayers.
“Well, we’ve done it and we have been through it all. There is so much that we should all be proud of on this day. We are at the end of our journey together, but this isn’t the end.
“Remember, fellow classmates, always be yourself. This is how you will make the world a better place and make a difference. Be a difference maker.
“Congratulations Class of 2020!”

Salutatorian – Juliana Leigh Vollmer: Recipient of Merit Scholarships at The University of Pennsylvania and Wake Forest University; 2018 National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists Award; nominated for the Academies at Harvard; numerous outstanding subject awards from CHS; college: University of Pennsylvania, majoring in Biochemistry and Biophysics; wants to attend Medical School to obtain an MD and a PhD in Pathology and work with Doctors Without Borders Program. She is the daughter of Julia Vollmer and the late Pete Vollmer.

“Good morning faculty, friends, and family. I am humbled to have the honor of speaking to you today. 
“When I was told I would be giving the 'Future’ speech this year, I was elated. And terrified. What lesson should I impart? What would my audience like to hear? How could I write and deliver a memorable speech? These questions swirled through my head in a turbulent storm, each one capturing my attention for a split second before being pushed away by another, more pressing concern. Within that tornado of inquiries, I found a common theme: fear.
“Let’s go back to the first fear most of us experience: the fear of the dark. When I was young, I was terrified of the dark. I adamantly refused to walk outside at night or to sleep in a pitch-black bedroom. Even a night light wouldn’t dissuade my fear since the light would cast shadows along the walls, creating terrible and terrifying monsters before my imaginative eyes. To escape those horrendous beasts I would sleep in my parents’ bed. A nightly ritual of being tucked into my bed, imagining dark hands reaching out from the walls, and fleeing to my parents’ bedroom established itself. For years I would climb onto my parents’ bed, plant myself between them, and drift off to sleep. My parents’ were my protectors, my shields from the awful darkness. 
“My dad, wishing that he could sleep through the night without me kicking him in the back (I had quiet restless legs as a child), eventually decided that I needed to sleep in my own bed. Stubborn as I was, I defied my dad. I know, I know – it’s hard to believe that I went against the rules but believe me – I did. My fear was a powerful motivator. 
“Each night, after my dad tucked me into bed, I would sneak in and hide under my parents’ bed. Once my dad was asleep I would sneak back into my parents’ bed; back into my comfort zone.
“Now, I realize that I wasn’t scared of the darkness – there’s nothing inherently harmful about darkness. Instead, I was scared of what the darkness concealed and what it could create. In other words, I was fearful of the uncertainty. 
“We have experienced countless uncertainties. Our class was born in the aftermath of a tragedy and now we’re graduating amid a pandemic. Though the latter situation offers the ultimate 'back-in-my-day’ story, it is not our last uncertainty. Some of us will go to college, learning about and exploring the world. Some of us will enter the job force, earning wages and experience alike. Whether you choose one of these paths or create another, you will have uncertainty. Don’t try to avoid it or be rid of it.
“Uncertainty is natural and human and inevitable. The future IS uncertainty. But you can’t allow fear to stop you from growing. Don’t allow the darkness to lead you back into a stagnant comfort zone. 
“Take control and decide where you want to go. You don’t have to have a full-fledged plan; if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that the universe doesn’t really care about your 'to-do’ list. 
“Instead, take one step each day towards a goal. I used to sit in a dark room for one minute, then ten minutes, then an hour, accumulating time until I could step into the darkness without hesitation. Every step wasn’t the same size and I wasn’t always moving forward, but I wasn’t letting the uncertainty dictate what I could do or how far I could go. Sometimes, I fell. Today, I still fall – even in the light, even in certainty. Mistakes happen but they are proof that you’re trying and you’re changing.
“Now, I won’t make the mistake of forgetting those who’ve helped me. As I, and the school year, draw to a close, I’d like to say 'thank you’ 
“Thank you to my mother for helping me find security; thank you to my teachers and friends for being with me in the darkness; and thank you to my fellow classmates for taking this ride with me. Many of us came together four years ago and we’ve said goodbye to some classmates while embracing new ones each year. 
“Before we all part ways to follow our own paths, I’d like to challenge you all. I challenge you to not allow your fear to control you. I challenge you to leave your comfort zone, and I challenge you to embrace uncertainty. 
“Walk into your darkness and don’t stop until you find the light.”