CHARLOTTE – Many thoughts and conversations raced through Barry Switzer’s head as the Ardrey Kell High School principal thought about what he’d say to the graduating Class of 2019.
“What does a high school senior want to hear? Will they even listen to what I have to say, having never listened to what I have to say?” he said jokingly.
Switzer settled on inspiring the 700-some graduates June 8 at the Bojangles’ Coliseum with quotes from their classmates, which were equal parts motivational and practical.
Ardrey Kell graduates have proven to be wise.
The top 25 seniors had grade point averages ranging from 4.5 to 4.67. The class earned 261 academic scholarships, totaling nearly $11.3 million. About 95.6% of graduates will head to colleges, universities or the military.
Outside of the classroom, the sports program won the Wells Fargo Cup, as well as attracted 52 athletic scholarships. Theater students garnered eight Blumey nominations, including a win for best musical for the second straight year. Students in band, chorus and orchestra received superior and excellent ratings.
Switzer also noted how students gave back. About 235 seniors were inducted into the Royal Order of the Purple Knights, logging over 28,650 community service hours.
All of this contributes to an environment that garners the attention of the U.S. News and World Report, which ranked Ardrey Kell as the number one high school in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
Valedictorian Anik Patel, who will attend UNC-Chapel Hill, referenced the words of 19th century author Ralph Waldo Emerson and 21st century rapper Lil Wayne to inspire his classmates.
Patel encouraged the Class of 2019 to take pride in what they can contribute, but also to remember the people who helped them along the way. He also told them to take a moment to remember how far they’ve come and to think about how far they can go.
Senior Class President Luke Caggiano referenced his “good friend,” President Theodore Roosevelt, telling graduates, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Caggiano emphasized that leaving a mark on the world requires not smarts or looks, but making life a little bit happier for others.
Salutatorian Vatsal Varma, who is heading to Duke University, used his remarks to note the power of individuals in shaping their destiny. He instructed graduates to look to their left and right, noting each had been dealt a different hand of cards.
“For the past 12 years, you have played that hand in ways that have changed your lives,” Varma said. “Now, you must decide how to play the rest of those cards.”
The difference now, he said, is that graduates have experience and choice.