Saints march on

Published 9:53 pm Saturday, June 12, 2010

Under the shade of tall pines, 76 seniors at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy walked across a dais on Saturday, shook hands with Head of School Colley Bell, took their diplomas and walked away as alumni.

The commencement exercises capped off a week of festivities in honor of the 2010 graduating class.

Before picking up their diplomas, graduates heard words of advice from someone who had stood in their shoes on the same campus 30 years ago.

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“Every so often, it’s important to take a risk, to make a life decision that scares you,” said Chuck Culpepper, a 1980 NSA graduate and the day’s keynote speaker.

Culpepper is a freelance writer in New York who has written about sports and features for the “Los Angeles Herald Examiner,” “The National Sports Daily,” the “Lexington Herald-Leader,” the “Oregonian” and “Newsday.” He also was a European correspondent for the “Los Angeles Times,” and he has published a book, “Bloody Confused: A Clueless American Sportswriter Seeks Solace in English Soccer.”

With his background in print publications, Culpepper also suggested that the graduates should “get more of [their] news from reading — and reading at length — than from television.”

His speech gave the students a taste of the endless variety of experiences they could enjoy in life — taken from the perspective of a well-traveled journalist — and he encouraged them to get out and experience all that life has to offer.

Salutatorian Gary Kafer talked of how a “community of 76 people” had come together as a class and overcome many difficulties to wind up sitting on the NSA front lawn, preparing for graduation with hundreds of family and friends on hand to celebrate the occasion.

“Together, we rose and fell, and we came out strong,” he said.

Valedictorian Andrea Beale challenged her fellow graduates to make a mark for themselves and to continue to revel in their individuality.

“The world needs people who are willing to stand up and stand up for what they believe in,” she said. “We have believed. We have achieved. And now we are ready to succeed. It’s our turn to change the future.”

After handing out awards and diplomas, Head of School Bell said, “Find something you really want to do and exalt in the happiness this affords you.”