By DAVID BORAKS
CHARLOTTE – They arrived at a brand new building two years ago from other schools, came together as a class, and built clubs, champion sports teams and traditions. And and on Saturday, the 415 or so members of the Class of 2012 became the first graduates of William Amos Hough High School in Cornelius.
In a ceremony at UNC Charlotte’s Halton Arena, they sang and celebrated, accepted awards and diplomas, and thanked the teachers, parents and friends. Students and principal Teresa Cockerham took time to note the many firsts and successes of the school’s initial two years.
In welcoming remarks, Salutatorian Ayesha Anand told the class’s story: “We are unique. Our situation is special in that we didn’t start our four-year-long journeys at Hough. We all came from different, sometimes rival schools and were thrust into this new environment during our junior year,” she said.
There was no formula to follow, no instruction book, “So we made it up as we went along,” Ms. Anand said. “We are pioneers. We made something out of nothing, and now we have something to be proud of. This why I know we are going to be successful in the future.”
Saturday’s ceremony included music by the Hough bands and chorus, and recognition for students whose academic and athletic achievements over the past two years have put the new school on the state map.
Hough’s senior class drew students who started high school primarly at Hopewell and North Mecklenburg high schools, both in Huntersville.
“We have more than come together,” senior class president Ben Craig said in a lively speech that had the audience laughing. He rattled off a list of achievements, from excellence in sports to “Broadway-worthy plays” to an “outstanding” band.
Ms. Cockerham read a long list of award winners and recognized many of the class’s achievements in sports and academic competitions. She also helped start another tradition, announcing that social studies teacher Jeff Joyce had been voted winner of the school’s first senior class teaching award.
Kaitlyn Crawford, named valedictorian as the class’s top student, said it was hard to believe that four years of high school and two years at Hough were ending.
“It was not easy coming together from other high schools to form this inaugural class,” Ms. Crawford told her classmates. Students initially held on to old rivalries and had to get used to cheering for their own school, instead of those they came from. She recalled how odd it felt during her junior year to be a football game cheering against North Meck.
“But as time went on, we forged our own traditions. And by the end of this year, it was impossible to tell, at the girls’ soccer state championship game – which we won by the way – with all our school spirit and enthusiasm at the girls’ victory, that that we as a class had come from separate schools,” she said.
She thanked teachers, coaches and staff – and Ms. Cockerham, whom she called “our fearless leader.”
The new $58 million W.A. Hough High School opened in August 2010 on Bailey Road in Cornelius, as Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools expanded to relieve crowding at other area schools, including North Mecklenburg and Hopewell high schools. It was one of two new CMS high schools to open that year. The other, Rocky River High School in Mint Hill, holds its graduation Monday.