Wye River Upper School grads offer strong testimonies

Twelve seniors graduated during an evening commencement ceremony on May 22 at Wye River Upper School in Centreville.

CENTREVILLE — “Embrace discomfort,” graduate Nevin Hamami said. “When I find myself in a challenging situation I often remind myself that nothing ever gets accomplished when I am comfortable with where I am. If you want to succeed at something you must be willing to fail at it too.”

This was the advice that Wye River Upper School senior Nevin Hamami shared with his eleven classmates, family and friends during an evening commencement on May 22. Hamami and two classmates, Olivia Bailey of Dorchester County and Alex Kliever of Kent County chose to speak during the Commencement, a tradition begun by the school in 2004.

Another tradition of the school is for graduates to leave their seats and move into the audience to present individual white roses to their immediate family members as a gesture of appreciation for their years of support. It is an exchange marked by hugs and tears of joy.

But this year, it was the senior speakers who stole the show. Boxes of tissue were passed around and each of the three graduates received a standing ovation.

Hamami of Arnold, Md., plans to return to the Eastern Shore in the fall to attend Chesapeake College. An accomplished soccer athlete, Hamami will join his good friend and WRUS Alumnus Matt Donohue ‘17 to play for the Chesapeake soccer team.

Olivia Bailey moved her audience to tears with a heartfelt look back as a WRUS student. Bailey pointed to her opportunity to be cast in several theatre productions and learning to play the violin. “Wye River gave me a place where I could be myself. This school helped me find who I am, and gave me hope for my future,” she said. Bailey will attend St. Mary’s College in the fall, where she will pursue her love of theatre.

Alex Kliever reflected on his experience earning his Eagle Scout status with the Boy Scouts of America and advised his classmates “not to give up and to see your commitments through to the very end,” he said.

“I understand now that it takes integrity ... to follow through on what you set out to accomplish,” Kliever said. He has a detailed plan to attend Chesapeake College for two years and transfer to a four-year degree program in pursuit of engineering coursework.

WRUS Chair of the Board Alexa Seip joined the twelve graduates, Head of School Chrissy Aull and commencement speaker Parker Seip on the school’s small stage. “I speak for the board of trustees that to hear heartfelt speeches such as I heard this evening captures the reason why we as volunteers work diligently to make WRUS an option for the community,” Alexa Seip said. “All kids should learn and grow the way these twelve have.”

Parker Seip of Charlotte, N.C., addressed the Class of 2018 and emphasized that their commencement marked the beginning of their adult lives as “smart people in pursuit of their passions.”

His advice was highlighted by his own experience as a learning-differenced high school student at the Winston School in California, where he successfully combined academics with his love of aviation. As a teenager, Seip earned a pilot’s license and was soon instructing others to fly. He is employed as a first officer on a commercial AirBus with a major airline.

Seniors earned most of the school’s major awards, all of which were presented at commencement.

The Thomas West Digital Arts and Technology Award, named after Centreville native and author Thomas West, was presented by West to senior Will Hazzard. Hazzard will attend Salisbury University in spring 2019.

The Stuart M. Bounds Dual Enrollment Award recipient is Grasonville resident Sarah Franklin, who will attend Chesapeake College in the fall. The WRUS Portfolio Award was presented to Hamami for his outstanding work in digitally capturing his best academic work through four years and presenting same.

Bailey and Franklin shared the Conner E. Bell Perseverance Award. Named for WRUS Alumni Conner Bell, this award is a college scholarship funded by his family to recognize Bell’s perseverance and success despite diagnosed neurological conditions.

The 2018 graduates will pursue a wide range of interests and studies following high school. All were accepted to college: ten will attend, one has begun a small business and another is arranging an internship and course of study in equine science and care.

“This class exemplifies the mission and philosophy of Wye River Upper School,” Aull said. “We work to ready each student for college and career, give them guidance and support in their post high school choices and are proud of each graduate as they follow their interests and passions.”

Wye River Upper School is an independent, college and career preparatory high school in Centreville. The school’s mission is to educate bright high school students with learning differences who bound for college and career. For more information contact Katie Theeke at 410-758-2922.

Follow me on Twitter @connie_stardem.

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