Lee Early College grads urged to aim for success

May. 23, 2013 @ 08:48 PM

Teachers often scold students for issuing dares to one another. But during the Lee Early College graduation Thursday night, one educator actually issued the graduating seniors some dares of her own.

Linda Smith, a member of the Lee County Board of Education and adjunct biology professor at Central Carolina Community College, told the 43 graduates it's far better to take risks than to be held back by fears and worries. She explained that committing to a dare takes courage and is risky, but that's exactly how they should approach whatever awaits them after graduation, whether it's college or a job.

"Take some risks that could take you beyond you comfort zone," Smith said in her commencement address. "Take some risks that could be the difference between great success and mediocrity."

With that in mind, she issued the graduates six dares:

* Tap into creativity early and often.

* Think of yourself in a positive manner. Don't be scared by a challenge. Convince yourself you can beat it.

* Stay calm, focused and patient, even in the midst of adversity.

* Take responsibility for every choice you make. Don't blame other people or circumstances.

* Envision yourself successful, and refuse to settle for what you've already accomplished.

* Stay balanced, and value work, play and family evenly.

After Smith offered her life lessons, one of the students took the stage to address his classmates. Jaleen D'Shae Hussey also talked about living life to the fullest. Noting that especially in this day and age it's not a given for a person to make it to 18 and graduate from high school, he congratulated everyone there — seniors, their families and the school's staff — for making it happen and for overcoming any challenges along the way.

"Life is indeed short, but you shouldn't worry about the length of your lifetime, but rather the fullness of your life," he said.

Hussey then asked all of his fellow graduates to close their eyes and take a mental image of the scene — grandparents, parents, cousins, siblings and friends had filled the main hall at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center almost completely, carrying balloons and video cameras — and he asked them to think about the world that will be opened up to them now, and how they will find success in it.

"Think about all the obstacles we've faced and walls we tore down," he said.

One person who was missing from the picture was Lee Early College Principal Robert Biehl. Standing in for him and also giving the night's prayer was Jim Atkinson, the school district's assistant superintendent of auxiliary services. He said Biehl's daughter gave birth in Washington, D.C. earlier today and he had to miss the graduation ceremony to be with his new grandchild. But he did send a message, which science teacher John Sneed read.

In it, he encouraged the students to make their lives a continuous journey of some huge leaps, many consistent steps forward and, if neccessary, one or two missteps — which he said many students have already made and overcome in their four years at the school.

"Some of you even turned around and stumbled backwards to this step," he said referring to graduation night. "But most importantly, this step is yours."

Lee Early College is a public high school that condenses the high school curriculum and allows students to dual enroll at Central Carolina Community College. Of the 43 students who graduated Thursday night, 24 received high school diplomas and 19 received both their high school diploma and an associate's degree from CCCC.