In the books

Published 9:36 pm Saturday, June 10, 2017

SPS Class of 2017 graduates

Service was one of the big themes of the day during the Suffolk Public Schools graduation ceremonies in Norfolk on Saturday.

Since this was the first graduating class whose members had been required to amass at least 50 hours of community service each in order to graduate, the theme was probably appropriate.


More than 1,400 seniors from King’s Fork, Lakeland and Nansemond River high schools received their diplomas during the three graduation ceremonies at the Ted Constant Convocation Center at Old Dominion University.

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“It was obvious that many of you took service to heart and went beyond the call of duty,” Lakeland Principal Douglas Wagoner told the students arrayed before him in dark and light blue gowns. And he encouraged them to keep helping others.

“When you spend time helping others and building them up, you will have no time for tearing them down,” he said.

Echoing the theme for the day, LHS valedictorian Myra Kaye Bailey told her classmates, “No matter what separate paths we’ll take when we leave here today, remember that success isn’t only measured by academic success or financial gain. Success is measured by the impact you have in the lives of others.”

Lakeland students were extremely successful in securing college scholarships and grants this year, picking up more than $2.9 million toward their continued education, including one scholarship worth more than $100,000 for Salutatorian Tenisha Nichelle Alston.

King’s Fork

Nansemond River seniors amassed a staggering $8.4 million in scholarships and grants, officials said, and the school had 158 of its 353 graduating students listed as honors grads.

NRHS Valedictorian Savannah Miller encouraged her fellow students to dream big and not give up.

“Warriors, I implore you to figure out what means something to you, chase it, grab it and never let it go,” she said, referring to the school’s team name.

“Warriors, you have a voice, and you have a brain filled with wonderful opinions and ideas that are worth sharing,” she added. “Do not ever think that you cannot make a difference in this world or in the lives of those around you. Whether it is in regards to activism, advocacy, or democracy, all it takes is a single idea shared by a brave person for a movement to begin.”

Her principal, Daniel O’Leary, took a lighthearted approach to providing last words of advice for his students.

“Follow your path,” he told them. “If you are lost, there will always be one that will get you back to where you’re supposed to be. And be patient. If you’re waiting in that Burger King drive-through of life, your order may be next.”

But King’s Fork Valedictorian Nadim Barakat may have had the best-received line of the day when he told his class, “We are undoubtedly the coolest class to ever come out of King’s Fork!”

“Regardless of whether you are going to college or the military or getting a local job, do not become complacent,” he told his classmates. “Never stop improving. Get smarter. Get stronger. Get faster. In an age where you can literally make a career by posting YouTube videos, find something useful and become a beast at it. You do that, and you’ll be set for the rest of your life.”

With $3.3 million worth of scholarships, King’s Fork’s 2017 graduating class bested the previous year’s totals by $1 million.

Principal Ronald Leigh told the graduates he was proud of them.

“I thank the Class of 2017 for some really great moments and for some of my greatest memories as a principal,” he said. “You guys are going to leave a great legacy.”