After a tumultuous 2020 where COVID-19 disrupted both classroom teaching and graduation exercises, hundreds of seniors have returned to normalcy in recent days through ceremonies celebrating both their accomplishments academics and the fight against the pandemic.
Still, the coronavirus has loomed over proceedings held at various Surry County campuses, as was the case on Saturday morning during the Mount Airy High School start-up program.
“Wow, what a year this has been,” Promotion Major Brooke Lankford told a large crowd gathered on the school’s football field, saying COVID-19 provided an educational experience in and of itself.
“I’ve learned that staying positive can make all the difference.”
Comments like this have been echoed in other launch programs across the county – collectively acknowledging that this has been a year like no other, but that the human spirit has once again triumphed over adversity.
MOUNT-AIRY SECONDARY SCHOOL
135 MAHS senior citizens were awarded diplomas on Saturday morning in a program that punctuated a victory arguably as important as that won by the Bears football team at the same venue.
Senior Class President Peyton Harmon, one of the program’s five student lecturers, summed up the events of the past year as “this most unusual time of our lives.”
He went on to say that at times of life when everything seems to be going well, an unexpected event can arise that disrupts even the best-prepared plans.
“COVID made this clear to me quite clearly,” observed the 2021 class president, while stressing how good things can still happen under such circumstances.
“We haven’t backed down from the challenges of COVID,” Harmon said of one of those results, as evidenced by the proud appearance of the graduates on Saturday. “We did it!” he apologized.
Another speaker Tessa Stovall, senior class vice president, offered a similar perspective:
“Although this school year has been anything but ordinary, we are all happy to commemorate this special day. “
Darius Walker, president of the Mount Airy High student body, cited an added degree of pride surrounding Saturday’s stage, implying that the campus was opened to in-person learning last August.
“We were the only school in the state of North Carolina to do this,” Walker said, his remarks eliciting loud applause from those gathered, including family members and friends of the graduates packing the bags. stadium bleachers.
The honor was also recognized on Saturday by Dr Kim Morrison, Superintendent of Schools for the Town of Mount Airy.
“I’m so grateful to everyone who made this possible,” Morrison said as he stepped onto the podium, praising in particular the school board members who made the difficult decision to proceed with the in-person learning.
NORTH SURRY HIGH SCHOOL
North Surry graduated 163 seniors on Saturday at Charles Atkins Memorial Stadium.
Isaac Riggs, student body president, spoke to his fellow graduates about the importance of being kind. He shared experiences of missionary trips made during his youth in Ecuador and the Dominican Republic and how the importance of being kind to one another was something he learned through these visits.
“I want us to know that the little things matter – try to make a positive impact on someone’s day,” Riggs said.
“As ‘ordinary’ people we don’t always have to give huge sums of money or do amazing acts of generosity, but we can just be kind and do the little things – it will get the biggest. impact, sometimes more than you might think. “
Riggs has been recognized as the NSHS Class of 2021 Salvator. He will be a student at Lenoir-Rhyne University in the fall.
James Jessup was the North Surry Class of 2021 Promotion Major and also the Senior Class Chairman. In addition, he was president of the Student Government Association at Surry Community College last year.
Jessup graduated from CSC before graduating from high school and headed to the University of North Carolina in the fall to eventually pursue a career in law.
He talked to his classmates about looking to the future.
In his speech, the promotion major quoted Malcolm X: “Education is the passport to the future.
Jessup also left his classmates with a bit of his own advice, saying that “whatever path we take, we all have the potential to make a distinguished impact.”
SURRY EAST SECONDARY SCHOOL
Perseverance was a central theme of the East Surry graduation ceremony held inside David H. Diamont Stadium on Friday evening.
“It’s hard to ignore the elephant in the room when we discuss our experience in high school,” said Colton Allen, East Surry senior class president. For 135 graduates, attending their final year of high school during a pandemic posed new challenges in addition to the traditional ordeals students face.
The two student speakers – Allen and student body president Chloe Hunter – as well as Charity Rosenhauer, who performed Riley Clemmons’ song “Keep on Hopeing,” stressed the importance of never giving up in the face of seemingly impossible chances. An excerpt from Rosenhauer’s song perfectly conveyed this message to those present: “Look up, you’re going to be fine. You have the strength to keep going, so keep on hoping.
The school year began with distance learning, turned into alternating school days during which students learned in cohorts, then slowly but steadily returned to a more normal environment that allowed for Graduation.
The students were able to experience all the things one would expect to see at a graduation ceremony, including the loud friends and families who filled the stands, the smiling, maskless faces of the students as ‘they were walking across the stage to shake hands with (or) Principal Jared Jones, as well as the silly twine cloud that filled the air after the graduation declaration.
East Surry was also able to properly honor the two students with the higher GPAs. Jacob Michael Haywood was recognized as valedictorian and Chloe Noelle Sloop as salutatorian.
SURRY CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL
At the Surry Central High School ceremony Thursday night in Dobson, some graduates danced on the stage or waved flags like capes while crossing the threshold of their future after high school.
“It’s no secret that the past three semesters have been tough,” manager Misti Holloway told them.
“You have taken up these challenges and you have conquered them. “
This year’s senior class will disperse with 122 pursuing post-secondary education, six entering the military and 46 joining the workforce.
SURRY EARLY COLLEGE
Getting a jump on graduation this year with the first local ceremony was one of the county’s newest educational institutions, Surry Early College High School.
To mark its 2021 class, 64 students have reached this educational stage.
This was the 11th graduation ceremony for Surry Early College High School, with students completing both a high school diploma and a two-year college degree. The 64 students were honored at a ceremony held on May 21.
Two of the best students in the class were the guest speakers, remembering their years in school together and encouraging their classmates to envision a bright future.
The keynote speaker was Mason Elijah Melton and the “super” keynote speaker, Paloma Garcia-Serrano.
SURRY ONLINE MAGNET SCHOOL
Surry Online Magnet School not only celebrated the milestone reached by its seniors on Friday afternoon, but the fact that they represented the very first promotion of a unique institution.
“You made history,” special speaker Dr Jill Reinhardt told the seven graduating students during their debut exercises at the Surry County Government Center in Dobson – a small group with great success,
Surry Online Magnet School had offered them the opportunity to complete high school through strictly online means emphasizing personalized learning through unique and flexible opportunities desired by students for various reasons.
They did so without “no classroom walls, no metal desks and no cafeteria,” said Reinhardt, who retired from Surry County schools in January but had been a key member of a development and implementation team to make the online magnet concept a reality.
Although it lacks walls, the school does have a mascot, the Trailblazers, who was mentioned several times early Friday.
Reinhardt said the individual graduates may have started their educational careers as Cedar Ridge Elementary School Panthers or Westfield Wildcats, but they ended as Trailblazers – which signifies the uniqueness of the new public school in line that was revolutionary both locally and statewide.
The students were individuals “who took the risk to change and move forward,” said the opening speaker, who added that some believed the school could not take off during a pandemic and accomplish what it has. in so little time.
The graduates were also congratulated on Friday by their director, Kristin Blake:
“You led the way through your education and everyone here today is proud of your accomplishment. “
MILLENNIUM CHARTER ACADEMY
The Millennium Charter Academy presented its fourth class on Saturday at the annual graduation ceremony.
This year’s class is the school’s largest with 34 graduates, 80% of whom go to college or university, including an Ivy League school, with the rest heading straight for the job market.
The MCA’s opening theme was “The Times We Are Given,” a reference to how students, school and families bravely faced the pandemic, even with all the challenges presented, and completed a school year. very well done.
The keynote speaker on Saturday was Stan Jewell, President and CEO of Renfro Brands, a company that also successfully handled the times when Renfro went from making socks to making masks and literally masked Mount Airy and various other cities.
Jewell’s address offered sound advice to the graduates and everyone in attendance. He said it matters less where a person goes in their life, but how they got there.
The speaker encouraged each student to walk life authentically, to be true to themselves, to show curiosity, courage, and to work hard in whatever they do.
Unlike last year’s graduation ceremony, which was held outdoors as families watched from their cars, this year’s program took place in MCA’s high school gymnasium.
Graduates were limited to six guests each and all participants were masked.