Saints setting sail into new future

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 13, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

As Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s 32nd graduating class marched across an outdoor stage to receive their diplomas Saturday, valedictorian Udayan Shah could hear the smashing of hammers.

&uot;The sound gets louder and louder as I draw closer, until finally each reverberation courses through my body as if I myself were being hammered,&uot; said Shah, one of five NSA students heading for the University of Virginia this fall. &uot;This thought crosses my mind as I round the corner and finally behold her.

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&uot;How tall she stands, how beautiful, how strong! She pulls against the ropes that anchor her to the dock and I can tell that she is as anxious as I am to be off. I look around the harbor and I see the same scenes of giddy, anxious, exciting commotion. The fleet is being readied.&uot;

This fall, every ship in the armada will move on to college, aided by over $600,000 in scholarship money.

&uot;Parents, the majestic ships you see before you should be familiar,&uot; Shah said, speaking to crowd of family and friends who gathered to see the Class of 2004 set sail in life. &uot;After all, you helped build them. You have painstakingly put together the framework of each ship.

&uot;The supports you have built will bear the weight of your sons and daughters when the seas are troubled and unfriendly. I cannot doubt that you will be pleased with the swift crafts your progeny command.

&uot;The harbor our ships rest in is a place you know well, for you are its engineers,&uot; he told the faculty. &uot;You have warded off the threats of the oceans with love, care and dedication.

&uot;If our souls are the captains of our bodies, you have taught us how to steer a rudder. In your classrooms, we have been taught to command, how to be the best at what we do. Honor, integrity, courage -these values have been instilled in our souls, never to be forgotten.&uot;

While Shah compared the graduating Saint squad to a flotilla, salutatorian James Spain got them fired up.

&uot;All of us know that a candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long and I see several flames burning within us,&uot; said Spain, also a future UVA student. &uot;But life isn’t a candle; a candle is too passive, it does nothing but sit and burn. A candle is too fragile, because it is easily blown out and all that is left is a puddle of wax.

&uot;No, life is more like… a blowtorch! A blowtorch allows each individual to express his or her own style, and whether you build a work of modern art or a super semi-sonic rocket to propel thyself into outer space, each person’s creation is his or her own – it is unique. Though the flames go out, the masterpiece will be remembered.

&uot;Try to think of life as a set of stairs,&uot; he continued. &uot;If some of you entertain the notion that there will be any one point when life doesn’t get better, forget it right now. Life begins at retirement. Life begins at 50. Life begins at college.

&uot;Life begins with the last breath that you take because there is always the potential to create and influence the world or just your closest friends, no matter how long you have. Life stops getting better only when you choose to stop it.

&uot;We’ve come a long way,&uot; Spain told his fellow students, &uot;but keep in mind that there is no destination. There is always one more step, and if there isn’t, build one – it’s easy. Take your blowtorch and clear a path, burning down any obstruction and any doubt.&uot;

As the year’s senior class said goodbye one final time, so did one of the school’s strongest fixtures. Patricia House. After 29 years of teaching French and Latin to Suffolk students (and 40 years overall in teaching), she bid a fond farewell to the graduates.

&uot;The rhythm of life at NSA is a dance that I have loved,&uot; she said. &uot;You are the most diversely talented group I’ve ever taught. You are intelligent and eager to learn more. You are exceptional athletes; you are unbelievably talented in the fine arts, drama and your own special areas of interest. Your community service projects are inspiring; you are tireless in your efforts for others.&uot;

From now on, the top student studying Latin will be given the Patricia Ruffin House award.

&uot;From Carl Sagan comes this quote: ‘Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known,’&uot; House said. &uot;Go and find it. You have the ability to great things and we, your teachers, have confidence in you.

&uot;This is your perfect day and mine for being able to share it with you.&uot;