Photos by Laurie White King | Herald-Banner Photographer
Like most graduation ceremonies, the Greenville High School Class of 2020’s send-off on Friday was full of chuckles, tears and eagerness. But, unsurprisingly, the class’ unconventional senior year in the wake of COVID-19 cast a tone over the commencement proceedings that was quite different than in years past.
Throughout all the student speeches, one of the overriding themes was one of appreciation and thankfulness in light of challenging times, a message truly appropriate for a senior class whose motto has been “nothing stops a lion.”
The first student to speak at the ceremony, Hannah Bloodworth, began by leading a moment of silence for classmate Caleb Powers, a friend of hers who would have graduated with the class of 2020, but passed away in 2016 just before he would have begun high school.
After the memorial, GHS Principal Heath Jarvis expressed relief and joy at the fact that the graduating class was able to have a ceremony resembling a traditional one, despite the social distancing and several attendees wearing protective masks and rubber gloves.
“We are so blessed to be able to be out here, to celebrate these young men and women,” Jarvis said.
Following Jarvis, two students, Jackson Woodruff and Edgar Jesus Rios both tried to inject a bit of levity into their speeches, before continuing onto words of encouragement.
“As you know, our senior year was often plagued by illness,” Woodruff said. “At the beginning of the year, we were often at home sick with senioritis, and here again, at the end, we are once again at home, but due to coronavirus.
“Even though our senior year has ended not quite as we would have imagined, there is still a silver lining to be seen … we’ve learned to cherish the time we have with family and friends because as we’ve seen, these moments we take for granted are quickly fleeting,” Woodruff added.
Similar to Woodruff, Rios began with some witty remarks.
“It’s not every day that you get to participate in a graduation during a pandemic,” he said. “I will have several memories from this quarantine. For example, I will never forget how hard it was to find toilet paper.
“On a more serious note, though, I believe we can all agree that this virus has taught us all an important lesson, one of which is we take many moments for granted,” Rios continued. “As we’ve seen in this instance, moments with friends, family and even our jobs can be taken away from us in the blink of an eye.”
The last two seniors to speak before the 330-or-so students each walked across the stage were Salutatorian Annabelle Tylenda and Valedictorian Wyatt Spivey.
Tylenda’s speech was largely a reminder to students to not “sweat the small stuff.”
“Whether it was worrying about grades, relationships with friends, or even our future goals in life, we all tended to let anxiety overcome us at times through our high school careers, especially now, with how rapidly the world is changing every day,” she said. “However, now I would like everyone to take a deep breath, smell the flowers, and blow out the candles. Relax.”
In closing, before the class would go on to receive their diplomas, Spivey reminded his classmates that despite this emotionally-charged milestone in their lives, that they still have a lot of living left to do after high school.
“Many things in our senior year were cut short, postponed indefinitely, or canceled entirely,” Spivey said. “The presumed world champion RoboWranglers didn’t get one last match, our track stars didn’t get one last sprint our softball players one last pitch, and the list goes on.
“That being said, I would like to stress that as difficult as these last few months have been, and as robbed as we may feel of the memories we were supposed to experience, the best days are yet ahead,” Spivey added. “None of our lives have yet to reach their climax.”
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