Alexander Repak and Shane Hendricks were co-valedictorians of Matoaca High’s 2019 graduating class in which 429 received diplomas at the Virginia State University Multi-Purpose Center.
“Shane and I have been friends since we were 2 years old, and honestly we never imagined we’d be standing side by side on this stage today,” Repak said, referring to Hendricks. “Since we’ve known each other for so long, we thought it would be best to end our high school career the same way it started: together.”
The co-valedictorians thanked God for giving them strength the last four years, their parents for pushing them to be their very best, the teachers who supported and instilled respect and knowledge in their lives, friends who made them laugh and grow, and principal John Murray, whom they said has been involved in many students’ lives.
Hendricks said graduation will forever change them. He advised the graduates to be different and try things others haven’t done before and to always remember the memories they made at Matoaca High.
“From driving to school for the first time to craziness at water wars, a piece of ourselves will always be devoted to the school and community,” Hendricks said. “Wherever we may go, we will always be ‘Warrior proud.’”
Matoaca District school board representative Robert Thompson said graduation is a big accomplishment that signifies the completion of one part of life and the start of another.
“You are all connected to the world like no generation before you, and, more importantly, you genuinely care about the connection,” Thompson said. “Teenagers like yourselves are participating in rallies, speaking at public forums and making their voices heard to help shape this world in better places, something that we can all be proud of for the years to come.”
Murray shared a story about a former student he said reminds him to make each interaction count in living a fulfilled life.
During his second year as a teacher, a student named D.C. was placed in his seventh-grade class mid-year and wanted to do his Black History Month project on Tupac Shakur because he also had aspirations to be a rapper. Murray decided to bridge a connection with his student and allowed him to do it on the condition: that Murray would also do a presentation on Shakur and the students would choose the best one.
Murray said he “crushed” the assignment, but lost to D.C.’s 4-minute rap. After D.C.’s mother died months later, D.C. started the process of being initiated into a gang, but Murray realized he didn’t want to join a gang; he just wanted to belong and feel cared about as his mother had made him feel. He told D.C. to rework Shakur’s song, “Dear Mama,” from his mother’s perspective, which he performed at a talent show.
D.C. is now 27, lives in New York and has released two albums. He calls Murray every year on Mother’s Day, the principal said.
“The first thing I always think about is there cannot be any other middle-aged white guys from the suburbs who get a call from a rapper in the Bronx on Mother’s Day,” Murray said. “The reality is that race, creed and economic status and even our past life experiences only hinder our ability to create lasting relationships with others if we choose them to.”
Murray said that while he may have temporarily shifted D.C.’s trajectory, D.C. permanently shifted Murray’s by encouraging and inspiring him to be his best self and to do what is right.
Nicholas Monger and Daisa Williams were recipients of the Superintendent’s Excellence Awards and each received a $1,000 scholarship, and Kathryn Pond, senior class treasurer, gave the school a water fountain with an automatic water dispenser that will be located near the football fields.