June 18, 2015
Six seniors receive diplomas at Ocracoke graduation
By PETER VANKEVICH
The Ocracoke Observer
Ocracoke’s six graduates contributed to many of the achievements the school garnered this academic year.
One of the smallest public schools in North Carolina with 168 students
in grades pre-K through 12, Ocracoke gained a lot of attention by
obtaining an "A" rating from the North Carolina Department of Public
Instruction (NCDPI). This was the highest rating for any school
on the Outer Banks and in mainland Hyde County.
And with only 42 students in varsity sports, Ocracoke's teams managed
to beat their share of large schools and play competitively at games
Both salutatorian Lucy O’Neal and valedictorian Kathryn
(Katie) O’Neal thanked the school staff,
the island community and their parents
that have made the graduates and the school, in general, so
successful. Katie concluded her remarks by citing General Colin
Powell, “Do the right thing, even when you get no credit for it. Do the
right thing when no one is watching or will ever know about it. You
will always know.”
Delivering the commencement speech was George Ortman, who served as
school principal from 2004 to 2010. He had strong memories of
each of the graduates and noted the strong points of each student.
Ortman noted that a student once asked a famous professor, "What is
the meaning of life?" and got a reply that included a story about a
young person in post-war Germany who found a shattered mirror and used
a piece of it to shine light into dark places. He encouraged the
students to, in the future, shine a light onto important areas that are
not normally seen.
Current principal Walt Padgett noted that Ocracoke students are the
valuable resource of the community. He singled out the four girls who
put Ocracoke on the map in sports, not just
for their athleticism but for their leadership. He said that applies to
all six graduates in many areas, and he noted their achievements and what
he expects from them in the future.
“I’m proud of each of these students,” he said.
The Ocracoke School graduating class has a tradition of giving a
Community Service Award. For the first time, the award was not given to
a person, but to the Ocracoke Youth Center board of directors, its
members, and the many volunteers who helped complete the community park
and baseball field.
Graduate Hunter Collins, who announced the award, spoke of the efforts
to build the new park at the end of Maurice Ballance Road.
“(The park was) made possible by many voluntary hours from a multitude of people,” Collins said.
Principal Walt Padgett, Assistant Principal Leslie Cole and
Superintendent of Hyde County Schools, Dr. Randolph Latimore, awarded
Five of the graduates will go on to further education, and Hunter
Collins will join the U.S. Air Force. Abigail Morris, who received a
cross-country scholarship, will enroll in the dental hygiene program at
Louisburg College. Lucy O’Neal and Samantha Styron will attend East
Carolina University. Lucy will enroll in nursing and Samantha, physical
therapy. Katie O’Neal heads to N.C. State, where she intends to
major in education with an emphasis on geography. Hunter Belch,
who completed his studies in December with honors, will attend Martin
County Community College.
The class of six received a total of approximately $82,000 in
scholarships. Katie O’Neal received $24,200; Lucy O’Neal received
$22,121; Samantha Styron received $18,249; Abigail Morris received
$14,100 and Hunter Belch received $3,500.
(For more news and features on Ocracoke, go to www.ocracokeobserver.com.)