CHARLOTTE — As Nikhita Nanduri watched her Ardrey Kell classmates navigate a world of unknowns over the past year and a half, she said she was reminded of the school’s mascot.
“Because what exactly is a knight?” Nanduri asked during the June 1 commencement. "It’s someone who faces a challenge that at times may seem impossible. Someone who stares down adversity and as members of the Class of 2021, there’s no better way to capture our journey.”
The Salutatorian told seniors the challenges they faced didn’t stop them, but made them stronger and more resilient. But Knights aren’t just courageous, she said, they’re also selfless. Nanduri told her classmates as they go out into the world it’s their job to always find ways to be of service.
“Students are often told that the world is waiting for us, but judging by the state of things right now, the world is impatient for us,” Nanduri said. “It needs us to bring that mix of determination and kindness, to keep being knights in everything we attempt.”
Principal Jamie Brooks held a moment of silence to remember three students who passed away during the Class of 2021’s time at Ardrey Kell — Jenna Hewitt, who was killed in February 2019 in a double murder-suicide; Ashley Lyday, who died accidentally in September 2019; and Ayet Syed, who in March lost a five-year battle with HLH, an unforgiving blood disorder.
Despite only being with the class for their senior year, Brooks told them she was proud of how far they had come and hopes their dreams and wishes come true. Brooks replaced former principal David Switzer last summer following accusations tied to racism.
“You have experienced a time in our country that will forever be a part of who you are,” Brooks said, referring to the pandemic. “You are brilliant. You are gifted. You are special. You are Ardrey Kell Knights now and forever.”
Thanks to virtual learning, senior class representative Gabriel Schuhl admitted he hasn’t really felt like a senior this past year. As a freshman, he thought seniors were cooler, funnier and never awkward or insecure. He said only now, at graduation, does he realize they weren’t actually any better.
“They weren’t really doing anything extraordinary,” Schuhl said. “The difference is they believed that they could.”
“You have gotten through an insane four years of high school and you made it because you believed that you could. Because despite every single possible curveball, you believed that you could be extraordinary,” Schuhl added. “You acted like seniors.”
Due to class size, Ardrey Kell High School's 2021 commencement was split into two ceremonies. Click on the videos below to watch: