Former Black Hawk pilot speaks at Goldsboro graduation

Posted May 26, 2011 4:50 p.m. EDT
Updated May 27, 2011 7:08 a.m. EDT

— A former Black Hawk helicopter pilot now serving as the U.S. assistant secretary for Veterans Affairs addressed graduates from a Goldsboro high school on Thursday night. 

"Whatever path you choose, it is safe to say you are rapidly moving toward your goals and dreams," Tammy Duckworth told the students of Wayne Early Middle School.

Duckworth was honored as a hero for her bravery in the Iraq war, where she served in the National Guard and lost both legs when her aircraft was hit by a missile in 2004.

Duckworth spoke at the school as part of President Barack Obama's Race to the Top Commencement Challenge.

Wayne Early Middle School was chosen as one of six finalists in the contest, which recognized schools that excel in preparing students for college and a career. 

Students at the Goldsboro school are enrolled in both high school and college courses.

More than 20 of the school's nearly 60 graduates have already earned two-year associate's degrees. 

"It has been fulfilling. It is a lot of work," graduate Irene Psui said. 

Jerry Jones said earning his associate's degree as well as a high school diploma already has helped him with plans to attend Appalachian State University. 

"I don't think I would know or be in the position I am not if I did not come to this school," Jones said.

Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, Tenn., won the Race for the Top Challenge and had the president as its commencement speaker May 16.