DURHAM — Clad in a shade of tangerine orange that’s new to the Page Auditorium stage, the first graduating class of Hillside New Tech High School entered the “real world” Tuesday with a bang.“Although high school has come to a close, the journey has just begun,” valedictorian Miles Hicklen told his classmates. “We all have the potential to be whatever we desire because we were bold enough to be the original New Tech family.”The nontraditional, technology-focused high school housed on the Hillside High School campus opened its doors in 2007 — one of nine science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) schools in the state to open that year. Southern School of Engineering, set to graduate today, is another STEM school. It opened in 2007.The 86 New Tech graduates became like a family as the school grew along with them, said graduate Bryan Mitchell, whose next stop will be the Navy.“It’s a family to us,” he said before the ceremony. “Us leaving isn’t like a bunch of random kids leaving who are never going to see one another again. Seeing people leave really hurts.”Commencement speaker Howard Lee, a former Chapel Hill mayor and longtime state senator, echoed Mitchell’s assertion that New Tech is a special place. He said he came to the school just the week before to chat with students.“I have never had a more substantive conversation with anyone — adult or otherwise — than I had with these students,” he said. “They are helpful, they are respectful, they are insightful, and I have no doubt, ladies and gentlemen, that the Class of 2011 at Hillside New Tech High School is ready to take on the world.”Read more: The Herald-Sun – New Tech breaks new ground

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