On Saturday, June 1st, GSSM celebrated the achievements of its largest graduating class in a ceremony filled with inspiration, laughter, and tears.
The 30th Annual Commencement took place in the Harris E. & Louise H. DeLoach Center on the campus of Coker University. GSSM President Dr. Hector Flores welcomed the campus community which included over a thousand parents, grandparents, and siblings. He congratulated not only the graduates of the GSSM Class of 2019, but also their families and friends who supported them to be among the strongest student scholars in the state.
SC Senator Gerald Malloy welcomed the gathering and voiced his support for GSSM’s growth, leadership, and ever-expanding mission to serve students across South Carolina, saying, “Thirty years ago, the school was just a dream and an aspiration, but today it is a beautiful reality. Each year, classes go out into the world to understand it, to change it, and to make it a better place not just for yourselves, but for others.” He spoke to his hopes for GSSM’s future, “It has been my pleasure and privilege for many years to advocate for the support of this exceptional institution and my hope that under Dr. Flores’ leadership, GSSM will continue to shine into the next 30 years and beyond. It is necessary!”
GSSM Board Chair, Mr. Hal Campbell introduced the Commencement Speaker, Dr. Arthur Lupia. Dr. Lupia is the H. R. Varian Collegiate Professor of Political Science at the University of Michegan and is the Assistant Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), Heading the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Electorate. Drawing on his research into learning and decision making, Dr. Lupia encouraged students to use their talents and opportunities to work on the real problems facing the world today.
Senior Daphne Dang from Cheraw presented Dr. Lupia with a yearbook signed by the entire senior class before giving the traditional senior response. Ms. Dang’s comments compared students’ relationship with GSSM to a high school crush, starting with a long-distance desire to become a govie, followed by love-letters that were analogous to applications, essays, and emails back and forth with the admissions office. Her comments were funny and touching, earning her an enthusiastic standing ovation.
The emotional peak of the day came with the awarding of an honorary GSSM diploma to Jacob Pritchett of Hartsville. Jacob is a member of the Class of 2019, but had to withdraw during his junior year to battle a cancerous brain tumor. Jacob had already met the requirements for the state diploma, but with overwhelming support from GSSM faculty, staff, and board members, the school took this opportunity to celebrate his courage and friendship. This was the first honorary diploma ever presented by GSSM.
It is a tradition at GSSM to offer only one award at Graduation: the President’s Cup. This award, along with a $1,500 scholarship, is given to the student who most exemplifies what it means to be a Govie: hard work, perseverance, community support, courage, and a never-ending desire for excellence. This year’s award went to Ms. Layne Scopano from Ft. Mill. Ms. Scopano will attend the USC Honors College next year.
GSSM is proud of its graduates and is looking for great things as the move into their college careers and beyond.
A recording from the school’s live stream can be found here. A high-quality keepsake video will be released for download in the next couple of weeks.
The Hartsville Messenger’s photo gallery of the event can be found here.
Pictured above: GSSM's 30th Graduating class, the Class of 2019