Carver College and Career Academy became the first school to kick off graduation season last week when 118 graduates received their diplomas June 3... Carver College and Career Academy graduates 118
Marissa Mansfield

Carver College and Career Academy became the first school to kick off graduation season last week when 118 graduates received their diplomas June 3 at the Virginia State University’s Multi-Purpose Center.

Superintendent Mervin Daugherty presented valedictorian Marissa Mansfield and salutatorian Khadyjah Dennis with the Superintendent’s Excellence Awards, which are $1,000 each.

Carrie Coyner, Bermuda District school board representative, joked that the students would miss their youthful bodies one day and told them to make time for their health today or it would take time from them later.

Chesterfield County supervisor Dorothy Jaeckle echoed Coyner’s statements and thanked principal Kenneth Butta for his love and compassion for the students.

Jaeckle said high school graduation was the defining moment in her children’s lives and the students will now transition into what will be their own decision making and responsibility.

“Some of the decisions you make will be good decisions, some not so good decisions. Those are what I call learning experiences: tough at the time, but you look back at them and they really do help you grow,” Jaeckle said. “But don’t forget, don’t ever forget that everyone of you has been given a gift from God that’s meant to shine.”

The decisions Mansfield made in her life almost prevented her from graduating with a 3.8 GPA. Mansfield said she never expected to be giving the valedictorian speech and that she was honored and humbled to be there.

Mansfield said she struggled with anxiety and social skills and became depressed and lonely when she was homeschooled. She enrolled in a nearby school, she said, but fell in with the wrong crowd and was expelled due to poor grades and lack of support from the school.

Mansfield went back to being home-schooled for three years until a friend and her grandparents encouraged her to attend Carver.

“I almost let fear stop me,” she said. “I feared everything: the dark, bugs, small spaces, people, talking to people, and, of course, going back to school. If I had not enrolled at Carver and decided I wanted my education, I would be sitting at home in Powhatan with no job, no education and probably just playing Xbox. Fear is an illusion in our heads we’re just creating. Let it go and you can live your life.”

Mansfield said attending Carver was the best choice she ever made, and she felt like she mattered there. She thanked her teachers, grandparents and close friends who supported her, and even though she thought she would be a high school dropout, she was able to rededicate herself to her education.

“I hope that the school has done as much for you as it has for me,” Mansfield said. “You’re about to embark on a new journey, and I hope that Carver has helped you conquer your fears and prepare you for the adventure ahead.”