Rockingham County High School graduation

A 2018 tassels hangs off the brim of a students cap at the Rockingham County High School graduation on June 9. 

ROCKINGHAM COUNTY — Whether they’re diving into careers, packing for college or following any of the many paths open to them, the Class of 2018 has a long journey ahead of them and that journey starts now.

On June 9, seniors from Reidsville, Rockingham County, Morehead and McMichael high schools crossed the stage and accepted their diplomas, a few weeks after Rockingham Early College High School seniors did the same on May 17.

“I'm just excited,” said Superintendent Rodney Shotwell. “I'm looking forward to wonderful things coming out of the Class of 2018 in the future.”

In all, about 905 Rockingham County Schools graduates entered the next phase of their lives.

For about 521 of those graduates, or 58 percent, that next phase is college. According to school officials, college-bound graduates drew in more than $16 million in scholarships.

Morehead topped the charts for the most college-bound graduates from any high school in the county at 158 of 202 grads, about 78 percent of their graduating class.

Next in the lineup, McMichael saw off 207 graduates, with 139 (67 percent) accepting college offers.

At the other three high schools, less than 50 percent of the graduating classes have already accepted college offers, according to school data. 

College-bound graduates added up to 108 of 231 graduates (47 percent) at Rockingham, 82 of 187 graduates (44 percent) at Reidsville and 34 of 78 graduates (44 percent) at RECHS. 

Across all five high schools, the Rockingham County Schools Class of 2018 included 140 National Honors Society graduates, 135 North Carolina Academic Scholars and 98 Presidents Education Award recipients, according to school officials. 

Over the last decade, the county graduation rate has continued to climb reaching a record high with the Class of 2017. The 2010-11 graduation rate was at 72.4 percent and hit 79.9 in 2015-16. Last year, that number soared up by 5.5 percentage points to 85.4 percent, a record high for Rockingham County Schools.

While the N.C. Department of Public Instruction will not release totals until later this year, Shotwell expects the district to remain on this trajectory.

“We still have some seniors that'll be summer school graduates and they have to complete their work by June 30, but based on what I've seen I think we're well on our way to continuing the upward trend,” he said.

Not only that, the superintendent added that he has observed graduation rates for students of various backgrounds make notable gains over the years, an observation which DPI data confirms.

“Whenever I look back at our graduation stats from 2006 or before and we had some underrepresented populations, that's not the case anymore, and I really felt that at both the graduation ceremonies that I attended,” Shotwell said. “There was a lot of diversity. A lot different than what it was in 2006, so we are making a difference.”

According to Shotwell, the continued climb of the district-wide graduation rate can be attributed to RCS’s efforts to meet each student’s unique needs.

“If they get behind, we try to figure out a way for them to be able to catch back up and support them because we know that, in order for them to really do anything in that next step of life, they've got to have a high school diploma and that's whether they go to work, military or to some other type of post-secondary school,” Shotwell said. “There are certain requirements and I feel like our dropout prevention coordinators, our counselors, our teachers and our principals have just done an outstanding job over the last several years of seeing all students be successful.”

As a few final remarks to the graduation class, Shotwell said, “As the kids are graduating, I'm starting to know a lot of them when I'm signing all the diplomas, and it's amazing to see, because all these kids that graduated this year were here in the first grade when I came to Rockingham County Schools. It's really powerful to see these kids go from being a young child to an adult walking across the stage there and their whole life ahead of them.”

He also extended his thanks to the parents for joining their students on this journey, making sure students keep up with their homework, show up to class and providing the district support in making sure students are successful.

RockinghamNow Reporter Joe Dexter and Managing Editor Gerri Hunt contributed to this article. 

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Contact Justyn Melrose at (336) 349 -4331, ext. 6140 and follow @JMelrose_RCN on Twitter.

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