Congratulations class of 2018! You may have been small in numbers, but you are one of the mightier classes that have walked across the stage.
The class of 2018 is the class that should be admired. They endured hardships and disappointments. A lot of it is due to them being a smaller class than the one before them and the one behind them. They were looked over quite often, got the short end of the stick, and did not always get the best treatment.
Although I could tell stories of several different students from the class of 2018, there is one that sticks out in my mind. He avoided the spotlight because he was used to being looked over. He never got the chance to shine, and even though he was intelligent and talented, others always passed him by. Now is his turn to be in the spotlight because even though much was against him, he spent his senior year of high school with his head held high, marching to the beat of his own drum.
This boy was the younger sibling and had many of the same teachers his sister had. He often was compared to his sister. She had a stronger work ethic and put more effort into school while he only was excited by things that interested him, such as math, drawing, and technology. She made higher grades and did everything before the due date, but he preferred to do things last minute. He focused on projects that he was passionate about and he threw himself into hobbies that were not school oriented. He loved to do things that made him happy, as any sane person would.
From the very beginning he was off to living in a shadow just because he was the younger sibling. It wasn’t fair but once you had met one family member it’s hard not to compare when they share DNA.
He was a smart kid but he never received student of the year, and rarely was picked for student of the month. Awards in subjects were few and far in between. To add to the list of being looked over and cast aside like unwanted vegetables, this child was from the elementary school that was turned into the middle school. When the middle school first opened, they only accepted 7th and 8th grades. This student was entering sixth grade, so not only did his childhood elementary get erased, he had to move schools for one year before he could return. It was a very tough year on him being split up from his friends and sister. The teachers told the students to quit talking about the former school and to get over it.
Can you imagine it? Trying to forget all the years you spent growing up in those halls must have been heartbreaking.
Once he made it to the middle school, sixth graders were finally allowed and they were much bigger than his class. Sports teams were already looking towards the newcomers and the boy’s class was chopped liver. It was an unspoken rule that seventh-graders didn’t get a ton of playing time so eighth graders had the time to shine. He cheered whole heartedly from the bench his seventh grade year, excited for his time in eighth grade. That rule was thrown out when he became an 8th grader. The class behind him was so large that his class lost playing time and the chance to prove what they could do.
Another slight occurred on his 8th grade trip to the Outer Banks. Although it wasn’t anyone’s fault, his bus had an issue with the ferry schedule and they missed out on going to Jockey’s Ridge while his other classmates were able to. And to add insult to injury, they didn’t even get to go on the traditional eighth grade trip to Carowinds.
Middle school wasn’t great and high school sports were less than to be desired. This boy made the JV baseball team his freshman year and gave 110%. They had practice year long and he went as much as he could. He was no slacker when it came to baseball, a sport that he has played since he was little. Even though he put in his time and was just as good as any other player, he and a friend were left behind on JV his junior year. What a slap in the face, especially when younger classmen were pulled up instead. During that entire time, he still had nothing bad to say about his coach when many others had different opinions.
The boys had a choice to quit, but they chose to stay on the team because if they were to quit then the JV team would not have had enough players. It goes to show the kind of sacrifice those two individuals made and the courage they displayed in their decision.
Junior year was the time to buckle down, get serious about grades, and start looking for colleges. Spring semester was busy with his Junior Marshal duties. When senior year rolled around, the boy decided to stand up for himself. He loved baseball with all his heart, but he gave it up. His college essays were about his decision to do what was best for his team during junior year, but he no longer was going to be a pushover and let people walk over him. He decided to focus on school, apply for scholarships, and work on his presentation for Future Business Leaders of America.
He placed second in the state at the FBLA Greensboro conference for his promotional digital video. Video editing was a hobby of his and he enjoyed getting to show off what he could do for once. Unfortunately, he was unable to keep his award and gave it back to his club’s teacher for keeping. His memory of the accomplishment would have to suffice.
When spring sports time rolled around, he did not attend baseball tryouts, but still missed the game terribly. But when one door closes, another one opens. The tennis team was in need of one more player and his friends on the tennis team asked if he would be interested in helping out. He had never played tennis a day in his life but wanted to help out his friends and their team. His dedication and hard work paid off because by the end of the season, he had won almost half of his matches and received All-Conference Honorable Mention. At the sports recognition ceremony, his tennis coach awarded him Most Improved and he finally received his varsity letter. He was the only senior on the team who had never played before the season started. Trying something new your senior year is terrifying, and yet this boy did it with enthusiasm and determination.
Another one of his many personal accomplishments was with the JETS club. He participated in the club from the start of his freshman year and was even elected the Engineering Rep his sophomore year. He was the only underclassman to be elected as an officer. At the JETS competitions at UNCC he placed second twice and one first place in a Catapult Competition.
The club fizzled out in his junior and senior year, much to his disappointment because the college that hosted the competitions had stopped having JETS event. Had JETS continued, he would have more than likely been elected president of the club by his senior year. The teacher who presided over the club was one of the few teachers that always had his back and fought for him. She awarded him for his efforts and talents in each class he took from her.
This student was also an active member in his youth group and participated in many service events, including five mission trips. In addition to his involvement with youth group, he helped run the sound room and the slides for his church. His heart for service and willingness to help others led him to be elected secretary for his high school’s National Honor Society in his senior year.
To end his time at high school, this student finished fourth in his class, was an NC Scholar, and gave the greeting speech at graduation. He scored platinum level on the WorkKeys skill test and is certified in Electronics and Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. He also was awarded two outside scholarships, one from a local Baptist church and another from his high school’s alumni committee, to help in furthering his education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He plans to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering.
This godly, self-sacrificing, kind hearted, always ready to lend a hand to anyone who needs it, peacemaker, intelligent, and extremely talented young man is my brother. I have watched Masden Thomas grow up these past eighteen years and I am simply amazed.
I noticed a maturity change during the summer of 2016, right after I graduated from West Stanly High School. It was on a mission trip to Honduras. Normally Masden prefers to sink into the background and doesn’t speak in crowds, but he stood up and talked about how that trip changed his life. He became a leader and matured in his faith through that trip.
Over the years I have watched how he was slighted through school, sports, past relationships with friends, and many things in between. You could do him terribly wrong, and he would still have a hard time saying something bad towards you. He is a true friend and an incredible brother. I hated how much I missed these past two years while I was away at school. I want to be there for him because I know he will always be there for me.
In the spare time he rarely has, Masden has taught himself to play the electric and acoustic guitar. He also enjoys making spray art and displays his work on his YouTube channel.
His calm, peacemaker personality often pushes him to the back, and he tends to avoid the spotlight, but this year is his time to shine. He deserves all the recognition in the world. I received his permission to write this post but he was not made aware of the content before it was published. I will always fight for him, no matter what.
Many are uncertain of the future, and that’s okay. Masden likes to go with the flow and make the best of any situation. He may not have gotten into his original first choice for school, but it all worked out for the best. God knows what is best for you, and Masden decided to trust in Him.
Jeremiah 29:11 says
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
God has something in store for all of us, and I am still learning to trust Him when things do not go my way. Next time I’ll take a page out of Masden’s book and try not to let disappointment get the best of me. I’m excited for His plans for my future, and I’m even more excited to see what happens for Masden.
If you’re wise, you’ll keep your eyes open to see what he does in the future because God has something big in store for him. I can feel it and I know he will do his best with whatever life throws at him. He holds his head high in adversity and has never lost sight of who he is. I have learned so much from him and wish I could be more like him.
Several people have commented on my support for my brother and while I am a proud big sister, if you knew Masden personally, you would be amazed too.
Masden Thomas is just one example from his graduating class. There are many others who have been neglected through the years as well while the few same old students were rewarded and recognized every year. I know not every single kid can be acknowledged, but there are some great kids who go unnoticed. I have come to know some of his friends and have worked with others from his class through the West Stanly Players. I have heard stories about what some of them have gone through and they have persevered through it all. They all are bright individuals with big futures ahead of them. Their graduating class alone received over a million dollars in scholarship money. Talk about small but mighty!
So again, congratulations class of 2018. You inspire the rest of us that we can do anything. I and so many others are incredibly proud of all of you! I wish you the best!