One month after originally being postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the three Logan County high schools finally held the socially distanced version of their graduation commencement ceremonies over the weekend.
Thanks to guidelines set forth as a result of the pandemic, the graduations were notably different than the ones held in years past. Instead of being held in the school gymnasiums, the three graduations were held on their respective football stadiums this year, with the seats for each graduate spaced six feet apart.
Additionally, each graduate was given only four tickets for admission. Those who could not attend were able to watch the ceremonies online via live stream by Video Productions.
The first graduation to be held was Man High School on Thursday, June 25. After losing nearly the last three months of their senior year because of the pandemic, 91 seniors finally got the chance to walk across the stage and accept their diplomas.
As each graduate walked across the stage, they were greeted with an elbow bump from Man High School Principal Patricia English. The elbow bump has become a symbolic greeting during the COVID-19 pandemic, often used in place of a handshake.
In her remarks to her fellow classmates, Man High School’s Class of 2020 valedictorian Dana Goodman reflected on the tumultuous circumstances her class has dealt with over their four years of high school, and thanked everyone in attendance for coming out to celebrate a “wonderful event” in an “unimaginable time.”
“The Class of 2020 hasn’t had a full year of high school since 2016,” Goodman said. “With teacher strikes sophomore and junior year and this COVID-19 pandemic senior year, we have learned that we will not always get our way, but I’m not here to talk about how terrible it was, but how ‘wild and wonderful’ our high school experience was. We’ve beaten our rivals, won academic awards, and logged countless community service hours — all in just four short years. Imagine what we can do in a lifetime.”
Goodman added that the Class of 2020 is the “most understanding, caring, and spontaneous class” to ever graduate from Man High School. She concluded by thanking the school’s teachers, school administration, and families who have supported the students throughout their academic careers.
Logan High School was the second school to hold its graduation on Friday, June 26, when 141 seniors from the Class of 2020 walked across the stage set up on the Willis-Nisbet Football Stadium to accept their diplomas.
Unlike Man, there was no handshaking, fist bumps or elbow bumps, as Logan High School graduates simply picked up their diplomas on a table as they walked across the stage. Relatives and friends sat in chairs set up on the field due to the field’s new bleachers not being ready yet.
In his address to fellow graduates, Logan High School Class of 2020 valedictorian Zachary Lowes thanked his parents, friends and teachers for helping to instill the values he holds today. He then shared a piece of advice from his mother meant to encourage one to chase their goals — “life isn’t fair,” which he said is one of her favorite adages, followed by “suck it up.”
“I cannot tell you how many times I heard that growing up, and I used to hate it; however, it took me at least 16 years to fully understand and apply what she meant by saying this,” Lowes said. “I believe we all recognize that there are unpleasant or undesired events in our lives that we cannot control — kind of like not finishing our senior year out in school. It was in times that I felt like quitting that my momma would recite her adage. Her adage encourages one to acknowledge that there are things out of your control; however, you should not sit down and surrender. Instead, you should fight through life’s hinderances — working hard to obtain the goals you have, so I implore all of you to go through life with the dedication to working toward your goals, knocking down life’s roadblocks, and eventually achieving these goals.”
Lowes then shared advice he learned from his father, who he said completes tasks slowly, even seemingly simple ones. He said his father’s style of work has always encouraged him to achieve the highest quality of work possible, rather than the fastest.
“For this reason, I wish for you all to carry out your tasks with the precision that demonstrates the highest quality work you can possibly do,” Lowes said. “It is better, in the long run, to work slowly with high quality than to work quickly with low quality, because you will end up having to redo the work.”
Finally, Logan County’s long-awaited graduation season wrapped up with Chapmanville Regional High School’s commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 27, when 171 seniors walked across the stage on Tiger Stadium to accept their diplomas.
Both the field and stage were perhaps the most decorated of the three graduations. Each section of the stadium’s scoreboard was lit up with the number “20” on both sides to represent “2020.”
The CRHS graduation was much like Man’s as far as how students walked across the stage, although principal Eric Ellis opted for a traditional handshake with students rather than a fist or elbow bump.
In a somewhat emotional speech, CRHS valedictorian Jenna Williamson began by remembering deceased classmate Caleb Fairchild, and remarked that he is one of the reasons she was standing on that stage.
“Although it pains me to know that you didn’t get to walk through this experience with us, I find so much comfort in knowing that pieces of you live on every day in myself and so many other classmates,” Williamson said. “If you were here today, there are a million things that I would say to you, but the most important is that you are one of the main reasons that I am here today, and it’s because of you and your influence on my life that I’m here.”
Williamson said that she herself did not believe she would live to see her 18th birthday for many years, noting that the past four years of her life have been an uphill battle.
“These past four years have been simultaneously the best and the worst years of my life, and it was undeniably an uphill battle,” Williamson said. “However, for many years, I didn’t think that I would live to see my 18th birthday, so the feeling of standing here today as a valedictorian is a feeling that I could never, ever put into words. I owe so much of this to my beautiful mother, my brother, my friends, and my teachers, for there were countless moments that you guys gave me the strength to keep going.”
Williamson’s final message to her classmates was that any reason they have to keep going, no matter how trivial, is good enough.
To view photos from all three graduation commencements, visit www.LoganBanner.com.