Grads Enjoy Fun Days, Memories, ‘Million Dreams’

Henderson County High School Grads

By Pete Zamplas- Newly-graduated Henderson County public high school students are reflecting on memories of school and friends, and looking forward to building career paths and enhancing society and the local community.
Students graduated on Friday, locally.

North Henderson’s Austin Bragg slams the ball over shirtless Mason Burgin and others. Knights played volleyball and otherwise enjoyed Jackson Park last Thursday, a day before graduating. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Many who spoke with The Tribune at their recent senior fun days look ahead to college studies or community college training. Several are instead eagerly joining the workforce right away.

Memories include of sharing special activities, ongoing camaraderie, making newer friends and appreciation of longtime schoolmates. Inspirational teachers and practical and fascinating courses also made good marks with local youths.

North Henderson has the most graduates of the four main local high schools, with 261. West Henderson has 236, East Henderson 202, and Hendersonville 161. Dozens of others graduated from Career Academy and Early College.

Several students said it was a blast relaxing with longtime friends, at recent senior fun days and picnics. Three were held, each with splendid weather.

Payton Smith of West Henderson yells as she finishes sliding down a slick tarp, coated with soapy water. Behind her are sideways-sliding Ray Ollinger and Katie King. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

East went first, on May 31 — two weeks ahead of graduation. West was next, on June 5, and barely beat rain. The school earlier that day wisely delayed its famed water slide to June 13. That Thursday was also when North Henderson seniors gathered in Jackson Park, in another recent custom.

Hendersonville (HHS) had a senior picnic in the fall, and recently instead held its award ceremony on the (Friday) morning of graduation. There was ceremonial passing of the torch, from graduating seniors to juniors/rising seniors.

Hours later, in graduation exercises in the gym, Michaela Kolarova, Alexa Goble and Declan Sander each spoke to the other HHS grads.

Sage Albert and Shontha Haywood then sang a duet of Paske and Paul’s “A Million Dreams,” the inspirational ballad from the 2017 musical film The Greatest Showman. Ziv Zaifman’s lyrics include “We can live in a world that we design.”

Christopher Tavernier played piano solo, for that piece. The Florida State-bound piano prodigy said he felt very “reflective,” in playing one last tune in front of his peers. “I was in the moment, as usual.” He had a “passing thought” that it was his last local performance for a while, but “I wasn’t fixated with that” and instead focused on his craft.

West water sliders are, L-R: Anna Ippolito, Reagan Butts, Caroline Corn and Robert Stanko. This time, the slide was down a side of the usual hill for a non-muddy, smoother and safer landing. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Tavernier will major in music (piano) performance. He said that at HHS “the faculty and staff were a critical component, in helping us get to this point” of securing a diploma through their instruction, and guidance. He said a bonus for school spirit and unity was “putting on events, from the senior picnic to pep rallies.”

Maya Gash of HHS most appreciates “the tradition of the school” academically, athletically and socially. “When you grow up,” the soccer and track sprint star said, “you hear that ‘Hendersonville is where it’s at.’”

West’s Matthew Dylewski offered an interesting take on high school. He lauded its structure in curriculum and schedule. “I know where my friends will be (such as in the cafeteria), and when.” UNC-Charlotte-bound Dylewski eyes a computer science major.

Last Thursday, the water slide was a crowning moment for dozens of West graduating seniors. “It’s a reward for our working so hard” for years as students, Misty Jones reasons. She will study at Appalachian State, to become an EMT. Ray Olinger hammed it up, sliding sideways down the hill and every which way. “We’re having so much fun!,” he said. He eyes a political science degree, from N.C. State.

East Henderson’s Clayton Austin recalled the anti-bullying lessons as “the coolest experience,” in helping youths mature. He said “Eagle pride” soared as the boys’ soccer team kept winning, and the football team bounced back. Austin is among many grads looking at BRCC trade school.

East Henderson seniors sign yearbooks, early into their special senior day. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

North Henderson Study Body Pres. Reese Mercer is most proud of NHHS as the first high school in this county in LEAD leadership training. North started that in 2018-19. Mercer, Anna Baldwin and Ashton Tan led the school’s LEAD Team input to help implement it.

Mercer said LEAD lessons such as in critical thinking, communication and planning projects thoroughly can be “instrumental in our lives.” He noted how one student was often yelling at teachers in class matured and gained emotional composure and restraint from LEAD tips.

Mercer wants to study nursing, at Appalachian State. His favorite recent school memories include the comical senior skit, which for once incorporated the class of ’19’s history.

Riley Kimzey tosses a bag at a corn hole target, while Cameron Kindley waits for his turn. Several of their West Henderson classmates socialize in an end zone, during the senior picnic. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Local grads are pivoting from reflecting on their history together, to forging paths ahead.
North Bragg Slam. North Henderson’s Austin Bragg slams the ball over shirtless Mason Burgin and others.

Knights played volleyball and otherwise enjoyed Jackson Park last Thursday, a day before graduating. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

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