CLEVELAND — They weren’t alone to start nor the first to finish at Cleveland, but they were the first to do both.
Friday the Class of 2014 graduated as the first class to spend four years attending Cleveland High School, a class that perhaps more than any other established what it means to be a Ram.
“We have gone down a long road to make Cleveland High School Cleveland, and we will make the world our own as well if we have the passion to move forward and change,” class president Cesilee Holdsworth said. “The same way we created Cleveland, we must create the world.”
Principal Anne Meredith noted that she has not spent a day at Cleveland High School without this class.
“There are kids I’m going to look for next August. The first graduation class was very special, but this crowd has been here since we opened,” Meredith said. “To see the kinds of things that they’ve accomplished, and the growth they’ve had – like that one right there...”
She tailed off as she greeted one of the taller students standing at least 6-foot-4, remarking that he’d been “about this tall,” four years ago. But it was clear that she was referencing growth more figurative than literal.
She referenced a letter she read to the class expressing what she had learned from it. She cited patience, willingness to take a risk, and developing trust in them. She also talked about crowd-sourcing them to help solve the typical growing pains and establish standards for a brand new school with no status quo.
“There’s a maturity they had to acquire quickly,” Meredith said.
For the class, they left behind a legacy unlike that of most classes in that essentially none preceded it.
“It was weird, but it was also pretty fun having a new start and not having the shadows of siblings,” said graduate Rachel Frampton, who will study special education at Mars Hill University.
Frampton described her class as a “very outgoing” group that “knew how to have fun.”
The class in four years grew traditions ranging from standards of getting through the crowded halls to working to fill up a case that only imported about 15 trophies left over from the old Cleveland School.
And develop a winning tradition it did. Cardell Rawlings, a linebacker who plans to study exercise science at Wingate University while playing some more football, named the school’s first win in a playoff game and being crowned conference champs as his favorite memories. The Rams beat Gray’s Creek 33-13 in the first round before falling short in a wild 59-50 shootout against Orange.
“It went pretty well,” Rawlings said of high school. “I’m going to miss it a lot.”
The Rams went undefeated in Two Rivers conference play, and upset 4A power Garner 45-44 when their nonconference neighbors visited for homecoming in September.
“Everyone was really happy to be there, and we actually won,” said Morgan Berger, a non-player who nevertheless will also remember the night fondly.
Berger will attend Campbell University and study golf course management. He said that although the group wasn’t necessarily tight knit when they first got to campus, four years to shape the school without upper-clansmen brought them together.
“We really grew together as a group,” Berger said.
Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @garnercleveland