Thomas Academy celebrates Class of 2018

July 5, 2018 

Lake Waccamaw, NC – “We stand here today on the beginning of the future. It’s not a distant reality anymore. It begins here. It begins today.”

As Thomas Academy Valedictorian Anna Utterback issued this portion of the senior class challenge during the 2018 graduation ceremony held Saturday, June 9 in the Catherine V. Powell Educational Center Gymnasium, it was clear that her fellow graduates were ready.

“The graduates receiving our diplomas today are grateful for all the support received to reach this point in our lives,” said graduate Macey Savage. “Our time at Thomas Academy has enabled us to pursue our future goals. Thank you for being here to celebrate this accomplishment with us.”

The 19 graduates represent the largest class in the school’s history and, according to Vice President for Education Dr. Tom Simmons, one that has grown the most during their time at Thomas Academy.

“There’s a song that makes an appropriate message for this class,” Simmons said. “One line is ‘caterpillar sheds its skin to find the butterfly within.’ You guys came to us as a caterpillar and you continued to work until you found your butterfly. Now I don’t want you to just find a flower somewhere to settle on and admire your wings. I don’t want you to do that. I want you to use those wings to fly wherever you want to go. And somewhere you will have an impact on somebody’s life.”

Dr Bradshaw and Avery FreemanThomas Academy Director Dr. Geraldine Bradshaw presented the Distinguished Senior Award to Avery Freeman.

“This award recognizes the senior who best exemplifies the Thomas Academy commitments to connection, compassion and character,” said Bradshaw. “Avery represents all of those commitments through all that he has done as a student.”

Bradshaw then presented several scholarships to members of the graduating class. The Konnoak Hills Lions Club Scholarship was presented to Roberto Rivera-Diaz and Christian Reviere; the Eleanor and Louis Puckett Memorial Scholarship was presented to Avery Freeman, Jonathan Jones, Kelly Skipper, Rebecca Yergeau and Faith Cannady; the Western Harnett Lions Club Scholarship was presented to Roberto Rivera-Diaz and Christian Reviere; the Jack and Jean Holt Memorial Scholarship was presented to Jessenia Molina; and the North Carolina District East Civitan Scholarship was presented to Macey Savage.

“It is a very exciting day for the Lamb girls as for the first time we are presenting the Luther and Sissy Lamb Memorial Scholarship,” said Patricia Medlin, who presented the scholarship award in memory of their parents along with her sister Barbara Burton to Macey Savage.

Savage also received the Black’s Tire & Auto Service Scholarship presented by Larry Hewett.

“Education is important to (BTS Owners) Ricky and Dianne Benton,” said Hewett. “They have a special passion for providing the opportunity to attend college to a member of the Thomas Academy family and have raised funds specifically for a scholarship.”

Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina President Gary Faircloth presented the Anthony J. Brill Valedictorian Scholarship to Anna Utterback.President Gary Faircloth and Valedictorian Anna Utterback

“Anthony J. Brill, the namesake for our middle school at Thomas Academy, continues to make a tremendous impact on the campus education of our students as well as on our students following graduation as they pursue their college degrees,” Faircloth said. “We are honored to present this $5000 Valedictorian scholarship to Anna as she continues her educational pursuits.”

The celebration included a keynote address by N.C. Representative Deb Butler, who was introduced by graduate Christian Reviere.

“She is a supporter of public education, believes in protecting the environment and is an advocate for the fair and equal treatment of all people,” Reviere said.

Butler shared her advice to the graduates as to how to best meet the challenges of life.

“You need to have a lot of interesting things in your life,” Butler said. “Certainly you are going to have to find a career. There has to be more in life than work. You must have friends. You must play sports. You must go camping. You must ride horses. You must plant gardens, go to church, volunteer at the fire department, take art classes, sing in the choir, collect old cars, do your exercises, eat nutritious food, enjoy nature, love animals, be adventurous, go fishing, do whatever you love, but make time for a variety of things. Participate in life because the friendships that you build while doing these fun things and enriching things will bring joy to your life and will sustain you through the toughest times in your life.”

After sharing some general advice on living a good life, Butler moved to a guide on decision-making that will help make that good life happen.

“A few times a day, stop and ask yourself what is the next best choice that I can make for myself,” Butler said. “You’d be surprised if you actually stop a few times a day and ask yourself that question, you’ll find yourself planting that garden instead of watching television. You’ll find yourself taking a class instead of staring at your phone. You’ll find yourself having a really good life if you make these smart choices. You’ll have a really good life full of friends with a sense of pride, achievement and contentment that will insulate and protect you from those challenges that will inevitably come.”

Utterback also encouraged her classmates to face the challenges of life.

“What I am asking from each of you, and from myself, is to meet those challenges straight on with your head held high and your heart wide open,” Utterback said. “It is not enough to simply try to get by in life. That doesn’t move the world forward. You must try to excel in everything you do. Strive for excellence in every task, large and small.

“We may not have the power to inspire the entire world to strive for success, but we do have the power to try to achieve it for ourselves,” she continued. “My challenge to each of you, and to myself, is to do all that you can do to reach your full potential. If each of the 19 students in this graduating class was able to do that just imagine the impact that would have. The future is truly in our hands so let’s make the most of it.”


About Thomas Academy

Thomas Academy is a North Carolina Public Charter School that educates middle and high school students. Located on the Lake Waccamaw campus of Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina, the academy provides a tailored academic experience to students who are oftentimes in need of a more specialized, integrated curriculum. Thomas Academy was founded on personalization in education, unique offerings and educating through purposeful design. Enrollment is open to any student in grades six through 12.