After a turbulent 2020 with COVID-19 disrupting both classroom lessons and graduation exercises, hundreds of seniors have returned to normal in recent days through ceremonies celebrating their academic achievements and overcoming the pandemic.
However, the coronavirus made itself felt in trials held at various Surry County locations, as it did on Saturday morning during the Mount Airy High School launcher program.
“Wow, what has been that year,” said farewell speaker Brooke Lankford to a large crowd gathered on the school’s soccer field, saying COVID-19 was an educational experience in itself.
“I’ve learned that staying positive can make all the difference.”
Such comments were repeated at other induction programs across the county, considering that it was a year like no other, but the human spirit once again triumphed over adversity.
MOUNT AIRY HIGH SCHOOL
On Saturday morning, 135 MAHS seniors were awarded diplomas during a program that produced a victory arguably as big as any other that the Bears soccer team scored in the same location.
Peyton Harmon, Senior Class President, one of five student speakers on the program, neatly summed up the events of the past year as “this most unusual time in our lives.”
He went on to say that at times in life when everything seems to be going well, an unexpected event can occur that thwarts even the best of plans.
“COVID made that pretty clear to me,” noted the President of the Class of 2021, pointing out that good can still happen under such circumstances.
“We have not withdrawn from the challenges of COVID,” said Harmon about such a result, as the proud appearance of the graduates on Saturday shows. “We made it!” he exclaimed.
Another speaker, Tessa Stovall, vice president of the senior class, took a similar view:
“Even if this school year was anything but ordinary, we all like to remember this special day.”
Darius Walker, president of Mount Airy High’s student body, cited additional pride in Saturday’s milestone, which included the fact that campus opened for face-to-face learning last August.
“We were the only school in North Carolina that did this,” Walker said, and his remarks received loud applause from those in attendance, including family members and friends of the graduates grabbing the stands.
This award was also presented on Saturday by Dr. Kim Morrison, the headmaster of Mount Airy City Schools.
“I am very grateful to everyone who made this possible,” said Morrison during her time on the podium, particularly praising the members of the school administration who made the difficult decision to continue with face-to-face learning.
NORTH SURRY HIGH SCHOOL
North Surry graduated 163 seniors at Charles Atkins Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
Student Union President Isaac Riggs spoke to fellow students about the importance of being friendly. He shared his experiences of missionary trips in his youth to Ecuador and the Dominican Republic and how important it was to be kind to one another, which he learned from these visits.
“I want us to know that the little things matter – try to make a positive impact on someone’s day,” Riggs said.
“We as ‘normal’ people don’t always have to give huge sums of money or be amazingly generous, we can just be kind and do the little things – this will have the greatest impact, sometimes more than you know.”
Riggs was recognized as an NSHS Class Salutator by 2021. In the fall he becomes a student at Lenoir-Rhyne University.
James Jessup was the North Surry’s Class Farewell Speaker of 2021 and also the Senior Class President. He was also the President of the Student Government Association at Surry Community College last year.
Jessup graduated from SCC before actually graduating from high school and will be attending the University of North Carolina this fall to eventually pursue a career in law.
He talked to his classmates about looking to the future.
The farewell speaker quoted Malcolm X in his speech: “Education is the passport for the future.”
Jessup also left some advice of his own to his classmates, saying, “Regardless of which path we take, we all have the potential to make a notable impact.”
EAST SURRY HIGH SCHOOL
Perseverance was a central theme of the graduation ceremony in East Surry held on Friday evening at the David H. Diamont Stadium.
“It’s hard to ignore the elephant in the room when we talk about our high school experience,” said Colton Allen, senior class president of East Surry. For 135 high school graduates, attending their senior year of high school during a pandemic posed a whole new set of challenges in addition to the traditional exams students face.
Both the student speakers – Allen and Student Union President, Chloe Hunter – and Charity Rosenhauer, who performed Riley Clemmons’ song “Keep on Hope”, emphasized the importance of never giving up in the face of seemingly impossible adversity. An excerpt from Rosenhauer’s song perfectly expressed this message to those present: “Open your eyes, you will 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 where students studied in cohorts, and then slowly but surely returned to a more normal environment that enabled graduation.
Students were able to experience all the things one would expect at a graduation ceremony, including the noisy friends and families filling the stands, the smiling and maskless faces of the students walking across the stage to shake hands (or Breast bumps). ) Director Jared Jones, as well as the cloud of silly strings that filled the air after graduation was declared.
East Surry also duly honored the two students with the highest cumulative GPAs. Jacob Michael Haywood was recognized as the farewell speaker and Chloe Noelle Sloop as the greeting.
SURRY CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL
At the Surry Central High School ceremony Thursday night in Dobson, some graduates danced across the stage or fluttered flags as capes as they stepped on the threshold to their future after high school.
“It’s no secret that the past three semesters have been challenging,” said Headmistress Misti Holloway.
“You have faced these challenges and you have overcome them.”
This year’s senior class will disband, with 122 completing post-secondary education, six entering the military and 46 entering professional life.
SURRY EARLY COLLEGE
Surry Early College High School, one of the newer educational institutions in the county, was a leap after graduation this year with the first local ceremony.
On the occasion of the final year 2021, 64 students have reached this educational milestone.
This was the 11th graduation ceremony for Surry Early College High School, at which students received both a high school diploma and a two-year college degree. The 64 students were honored in a ceremony on May 21st.
Two of the best students in the class were the speakers, who remembered their years together at school and encouraged classmates to look forward to a bright future.
The senior speaker was Mason Elijah Melton and the “super” senior speaker was Paloma Garcia-Serrano.
SURRY ONLINE MAGNET SCHOOL
Not only did the Surry Online Magnet School celebrate the milestone its graduates had reached on Friday afternoon, but also the fact that they were the first graduating class from a unique institution.
“You have shaped history,” said special spokeswoman Dr. Jill Reinhardt the seven outgoing students during their initial practice at the Surry County Government Center in Dobson – a small group with a big accomplishment.
Surry Online Magnet School had given them the opportunity to complete a high school education exclusively online, emphasizing personalized learning through unique and flexible options requested by students for a variety of reasons.
They did this without “classroom walls, no metal tables, and no cafeteria,” said Reinhardt, who retired from Surry County Schools in January but served as a key member of a development and implementation team to help make the online magnet concept a reality .
Although there are no walls, the school has a mascot, the Trailblazers, which was referred to several times at the start of Friday.
Reinhardt said the individual graduates might have started their educational careers as Cedar Ridge Elementary School Panthers or Westfield Wildcats, but ended up being trailblazers – signaling the uniqueness of the new online public school, which was groundbreaking both locally and nationwide.
The students are individuals “who have seized a chance for change and progress,” the spokesman said at the beginning, adding that some thought the school could not get going during a pandemic and achieve what it is in such a short time have achieved.
The graduates were also commended on Friday by their headmistress Kristin Blake:
“Through your training you did pioneering work and everyone who is here today is proud of your achievement.”
MILLENNIUM CHARTER ACADEMY
The Millennium Charter Academy presented their fourth graduate class at the annual graduation ceremony on Saturday.
This year’s class is the largest in the school with 34 graduates, 80 percent of whom are in college or university, including an Ivy League school, and the rest go straight to the workforce.
The MCA’s opening theme was “The Times We Are Given”, an indication of how students, schools and families have courageously dealt with the pandemic despite all the challenges and have completed a very successful school year.
The keynote speaker on Saturday was Stan Jewell, President and CEO of Renfro Brands, a company that also successfully dealt with the times when Renfro switched from sock-making to mask-making, literally masking Mount Airy and various other cities.
Jewell’s address provided the graduates and everyone present with in-depth advice. He said it is not so important where a person is going in their life, but how they got there.
The speaker encouraged each student to travel through life with authenticity, be true to themselves, have curiosity and courage, and work hard in everything they do.
Unlike last year’s opening ceremony, which was held outdoors while families watched from their cars, this year’s program was held in the gym of the MCA high school.
Graduates were limited to six guests each and all participants were masked.