CHARLOTTE – Chuck Baldecchi told Charlotte Latin School's Class of 2021 on May 21 about the mixed emotions one has when you wear the hat of a head of school and a father.

Baldecchi built an elaborate series of rocket-themed metaphors to describe graduates' upcoming journey. He assured parents their children were ready to take off, but he encouraged students to contact ground control every now and then.

The Class of 2021 is going places, specifically to 66 colleges in 25 states and Washington, D.C. Graduates had a mean grade point average of 3.81 and reported 156 merit scholarships, totaling more than $11.5 million.

They performed 7,375 hours of community service, benefiting 292 different organizations over the past four years.

Senior Class President Cole Lavelle shared the Class of 2021's gift to Charlotte Latin – an Alliance Garden. The garden will be located between an outdoor classroom and Belk Gym. It will provide a walkway for middle and high school students while also highlighting social and diversity clubs on campus, such as the Mosaic Club, Black Student Alliance, Hispanic Student Alliance, Asian Student Alliance and the Gender and Sexuality Alliance.

“The garden will feature a butterfly bush that'll cross-pollinate to represent the unity and commitment to excellence of Charlotte Latin School,” Lavelle said.

Lavelle described the past year as “overwhelmingly demanding, different and exhausting.” He reflected with fellow grads how they had to make college decisions without stepping foot on campus as well as sitting through tiring virtual lectures.

Commencement speaker Jalen Ross shared a principle that run counter to the advice graduates have been hearing throughout the pandemic – quit.

Ross, a Charlotte Latin alum who earned a Harvard MBA and started a business in his 20s, shared the triple happy rule. Periodically, you should ask three questions: Are you happy with what you do? Are you happy where you are? Are you happy with who you are with?

“If you can't say you are happy two out of three times, quit,” he said. “That little trick gave me the clarity to make some of the biggest decisions I've made in the last 10 years and I think some of the best.”

The triple happy rule probably wouldn't have swayed Ken Collins. He is retiring from Charlotte Latin after 50 years of teaching. Collins received an honorary diploma during the ceremony and shared some words with graduates.

“If I have a message to leave with you, it is to work with those around you together because what you can achieve together is immensely more powerful than anyone of you can achieve alone,” Collins told graduates. “Whatever recognition I receive is enormously due to the people around me that have helped me throughout the years.”

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