Why the Class of 2008 will be strong to finish

May 28, 2008 

When I was a kid, we thought spinach existed to give Popeye energy.

When Aaron Schroeder was a kid, he thought spinach -- if he could isolate its chloroplasts -- might produce enough energy to run a cell phone.

Meet the high school class of 2008.

As they continue to march across local stages this week -- with ceremonies at Hilton Head Island High on Thursday and Bluffton High on Friday -- I'm again reminded it's not the kids we have to worry about in this world.

Tina Webb-Browning introduced Aaron for his salutatorian speech at the Hilton Head Preparatory School graduation Saturday. Tina contacted another teacher, Marjorie Milbrandt, who told her, "Even in second grade, you knew he was destined for great things. In that class, I had Aaron, Caitlin Lawson and Kirsten Ayers -- what a trio! It took all my resources to stay one step ahead of them."

Aaron and Caitlin's moms were in childbirth class together. On Saturday, Barb Schroeder and Julie Lawson watched their babies graduate together.

Caitlin became a star surfer. Persistence got her a senior internship with Surfing Magazine, and then the unheard of -- a byline on a story.

Kirsten Ayers, who grew up next door to us, will graduate Saturday from the South Carolina Governors School for Science and Mathematics in Hartsville. This spring, Kirsten organized a golf tournament to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House because it helped her family when a 13-year-old cousin was deathly ill.

Aaron also is from my Hilton Head Plantation neighborhood, where we watched him grow from a round-faced kid into a tall, lanky runner. On Tuesday, he rode a bike down to Hilton Head Prep -- about 11 miles -- and ran home because it was on his list of silly things to accomplish in his senior year.

Signs of serious accomplishments are all over his home.

Aaron's growth spurt over the past five years is penciled on the kitchen door frame. A Duke flag lies on the dining room table because Aaron chose Duke over Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, Cornell and Clemson. On the wall is a framed Island Packet story -- "The ups and downs of a science whiz" -- written when Aaron was the only South Carolina student to make the U.S. Physics Contest quarterfinals.

Our 17- and 18-year-olds aren't babies anymore. Now it's time for them to move on. Aaron will be joined at Duke by Prep valedictorian Ryan Clark. A third of the Hilton Head Christian Academy class is headed for Clemson.

"The class of 2008 will inevitably inherit a smorgasbord of global issues with which to grapple, but there are two sides to our predicament," Aaron said in his speech. Problems and solutions.

"An energy crisis, poverty, and a stumbling economy are among the problems this class will face. Although our situation may seem daunting, we know exactly what we must do. The undeniable presence of these dilemmas provides us with a clear objective."

Hope they eat their chloroplasts.

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