Sumter’s Next Generation, presented by CCTC: Sumter, Lakewood, Wilson Hall student body presidents reflect ahead of high school graduation


Four years can fly by, and before you know it, you're taking that walk of pride into the next chapter of your life.

The misters and madam student body presidents Slade Custer of Wilson Hall, Quindon Dais of Lakewood High School and Gabrielle Miller of Sumter High School know all about such a feeling. As seniors gearing up to enter the next big stage of their academic careers, the trio reflects on their high school experience, all of its trials and triumphs, weeks out from graduation.

Q: As the first class to enter high school during COVID-19, how did that shape your high school experience?

Gabrielle: "It was hard for me, personally. I say that because I am a people person; I can do home learning, that's fine with me, but I love to be around people. I need to see my peers; I need to be able to interact with them. The transition going back into the building I was scared. I didn't want to get sick, so I didn't want to be around anybody. But overall, it was challenging."

Slade: "[Coming from Virginia,] Freshman year for me was rough. We did get to go to school, but we wore masks and had shield protectors. I had gotten quarantined three times, and they'd send you home. It was difficult because I had my computer on my desk, and right behind it was my PlayStation [laughs]. But I had to lock in, and it took a lot more effort, so it was definitely harder."

Q: Why is it important for students, especially the three of you as student body presidents, to have an open line of communication with administrators and staff?

Quindon: "I feel a lot of times, students look for that one that actually will say something to faculty or speak up to an administrator because everybody doesn't have the courage or isn't as involved as the next student. They don't have connections or they don't have that drive to say we're unhappy about this or we want to do this. Being the leader for them and actually standing up for the student body is important because everybody deserves a voice; everybody deserves to be heard."

Q: Is there anything you know now about school or yourself that you wish you had known as a freshman?

Slade: "Try and do everything possible, whether it be joining the club or trying out for a sport or even attending all the sporting events, it's all important to you adding to those memories. You don't want to look back on your high school experience and it be kind of a blur. You need to get involved with everything, and it'll really help. And it's not just about the experience but the people, too. You need to build close relationships; you're not going to remember everything a person says, but you'll remember how they made you feel."

Q: Is there anything that you're nervous or excited about going into college?

Gabrielle: "I hope to do the same thing I do now: getting involved with school, building great relationships and great bonds with professors, my peers, community members - it doesn't matter. I want to continue to run for whatever the school offers ... and get a better experience because, obviously, it's college and not high school, but I want it to resemble because I had a great high school experience."

Q: What is your core high school memory, one that you can tell your future college friends about?

Quindon: "My favorite year of high school would be my 10th-grade year just because of the collective student body. It was after COVID, so everybody was trying to talk to everybody and get back to being around people. It was just a great year. But my favorite part about high school would be being a part of GearUp and all the things that we've done together as a class, the time we spent together and, oh, going to Claflin University for a week; that was the best experience of my life."

Now, as they prepare for college, the trio has its sights set on a bright future as Slade heads to University of South Carolina to study business administration, Gabrielle travels to Claflin University to major in business management and Quindon ventures to Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia, to pursue business administration with a concentration in project management.