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June 3, 2024

Gray Stone Day School celebrates 87 grads during commencement exercises

Members of the Class of 2024 at Gray Stone applaud for this year's scholarship winner, June Barney (middle). (Photo by Charles Curcio/staff)
Members of the Class of 2024 at Gray Stone applaud for this year's scholarship winner, June Barney (middle). (Photo by Charles Curcio/staff)

By Charles Curcio
Stanly News & Press

Gray Stone Day School celebrated milestones Saturday as 87 members of the Knights’ Class of 2024 received diplomas during commencement exercises.

This year’s graduating class was the 20th in the school’s history and join 1,384 previous graduates. The Class of 2024 earned $3.571 million in scholarships. It represents nine counties and has performed more than 3,300 community service hours. Of the 87 graduates, 98% are continuing their education at a two- or four-year college, while one graduate, Sean Taylor, has enlisted in the Navy. Taylor was recognized during the ceremonies.

Two special awards were given during the festivities. Gray Stone Administrator Helen Nance presented Sherri Sherrill with a mantel clock on behalf of the school’s Board of Directors for her efforts at the school for 20 years starting as a data manager into her current role as registrar.

“She is an integral part of our community,” Nance said.

Nance presented the Board of Directors Scholarship to June Barney. Nance said the scholarship is presented to a graduating student who “has proven to be responsible and demonstrated exceptional service to others and the community.”

Barney, Nance said, played tennis for Gray Stone, was secretary of the National Honor Society and a member of the Spanish National Honor Society, a Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Ambassador and yearbook editor.

Capt. Andrew Pribble gave the commencement address. Pribble, who graduated from Gray Stone in 2010, is a 2014 West Point graduate and a trained Apache helicopter pilot. After flight school, Pribble served three years in Europe leading soldiers and pilots in U.S. and NATO objectives, then commanded Apache pilots at Fort Liberty, formerly Fort Bragg, in Fayetteville.

He left active duty in 2023 and is a process engineer with Nucor Steele in Nashville, Tennessee. Pribble also is an executive transport pilot with the Army Reserves.

Pribble talked about two concepts: gratitude and caution. Regarding gratitude, he said, “I was you not long ago. It took work, and work is rarely glamorous, but it never hurts to reflect on just how many people didn’t have this opportunity and would be very grateful to be in your shoes right now.”

Pribble said graduates should be “worthy of the love and attention that was invested in you, and try to amplify that in your interactions with others. Give back to the world, with interest.”

In terms of caution, Pribble urges graduates to “be a doer, not a talker. You will be inundated with talkers and the world is swarming with them…you can not talk a life into existence. The universe responds to action.”

He also said “you will never be as young, as bright, beautiful and full of potential as you are right now. Do not waste it. There is no one right way, but their is a wrong way.”

Two graduates, Dixie King and Catherine Newsom, accompanied by Andrew Hodges, performed “A Million Dreams” from “The Greatest Showman.”

Three student speakers spoke next, each with a different trait as the central theme for their remarks.

Amy Crystal Gonzalez-Hernandez spoke about bravery, having attended both middle and high school at Gray Stone. She talked about first approaching new kids the first day of sixth grade who were playing Pokemon, asking if she could play.

“That simple act of bravery, I took as a 12-year-old sixth grader, led me to seven years filled with memories, lessons learned and friendships of a lifetime,” Gonzalez-Hernandez said.

“Seven years at Gray Stone have been filled with obstacles we have overcome,” she said. “I believe that this class, the Class of 2024, is brave. We have embraced new opportunities, stepped out of our comfort zones and fought for what we believe in. The world needs brave knights who dare to dream and act, who care to lead and love. So reflect on your previous adventures and continue to be great.”

Mark Lappin, speaking about heart, noted since 185 school days are required by the state of North Carolina, those having spent seven years in middle and high school at Gray Stone have spent about 1,295 days at school there.

“If you want an even bigger number, we’ve put in just over 9,000 hours of schoolwork. That’s not even adding the hours we spent competing in athletic competitions, participating in our clubs or just crying over ‘Beowulf,’ ” Lappin said.

Lappin compared the Gray Stone community to chainmail, a type of armor worn back in the day by knights.

“Each intricate link represents an individual, and when all those links are conjoined, it becomes a community that survives the worst and thrives in the best,” Lappin said. “Chainmail is strong and flexible, despite the complex pieces it is composed of, and protects the vulnerable parts of us, much like the community does.”

Lappin said the graduates’ accomplishments “demonstrate the heart we’ve all developed with the help of our families, friends and the Gray Stone staff. Without heart, the community we’ve made has no identity, drive or strength.”

Matayah Grubbs spoke about the trait of honor, noting every student for seven years has signed their names to each assignment with the phrase “on my honor” at the bottom.

That sentence, she said, “is more than just words on a page. It is a symbol of the honor we bring into the world, making it a better place.”

Grubbs noted when civilians are knights during an accolade ceremony, they are tapped on both shoulders by a sword. This action is done “signifying the honor that knights will carry with them in the future. This honor was not only to their king, but to themselves. The touch to each shoulder represents the only time a knight will be hit without fighting back.”

When graduates received their diplomas, Grubbs added, “today marks where you are officially knighted, when you fulfill your honor as a Gray Stone student and you can embark on your journey into the world.”

Noting the words of Miguel de Cervantes, Grubbs said, “the wounds received in battle bestow honor; they do not take it away.”


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