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WSN Class of 2020 graduates in socially distanced ceremony

W.S. Neal High School hosted the Class of 2020 graduation on Fri. The socially distanced event was held in the football stadium on campus at 7 p.m.

Arriving at 5 p.m., graduates were accompanied by only four guests. Before the ceremony, students were properly spaced, while friends and family socially distanced in the stands.

Addressing the Class of 2020, Principal Matthew Hodge spoke about change. “September 11, 2001, changed the United States – changed the world. 99 percent of our graduating class tonight was born in the year 2001. COVID-19 March 2020 changed our United States and our nation forever. Change is nothing new to this class of 2020. They have been exposed to change from their infancy to now adulthood. They adapt; they learn. They conquer change,” Hodge said.

Speaking to her class, Valedictorian Valerie Weaver referenced change and uncertainty during her speech. “Despite how terrifying uncertainty can be,  I think it is another word for opportunity,” Weaver said.

“We as a class have missed out on some of the biggest parts of our senior year and that is not fair to us all. We cannot keep wishing things were different and we cannot keep dwelling on the things we cannot change. The class of 2020 will go on to the next stage of life striving for more,” she shared.

Following the speeches by the valedictorian and salutatorian and the address from Principal Hodge, diplomas were distributed to the Class of 2020. While each graduate walked across the stage and received his or her diploma, friends and family members were encouraged to cheer for graduates, as a new tradition was born during the 90th WSN commencement ceremony.

Before the graduates walked, Hodge said, “Now speaking of traditions, I want to start a new one with this class, but it has to be a tradition with limitations. Past graduations, the crowd is asked to be silent while the graduates walk across the stage and receive his or her diploma. You have come to celebrate. You and your family members are here to rejoice in the accomplishment of the graduating senior. So let’s celebrate! I want you to scream, I want you to yell.” Because of his statement, cheers were heard from the stands, as each graduate walked across the stage.

Once all diplomas were distributed, students were declared graduates and tassels moved to the other side.

Following the ceremony, Valedictorian Weaver shared, “It is crazy. It is scary because it makes it feel real – like we are all growing up already. But I am proud of all of us, and I think we are doing a great job already.”

Seated next to Weaver, Salutatorian McKenzie Jackson was all smiles following the event. “Its really overwhelming, especially when we gave our speech, just seeing all those people up there- everybody’s parents and the class. It was a very good moment for us just to be together,” Jackson said.

The Top Ten members of the W. S. Neal High School Class of 2020 are:

  1. Valedictorian Valerie Weaver
  2. Salutatorian Madelyn Jackson
  3. Ashley King
  4. Chandler Strength
  5. Terra Hymel
  6. Katelyn Wilson
  7. Brenda Johnson
  8. Logan Lambeth
  9. Bailey Riddle
  10. Julie Lucas

Above, from a socially distanced procession to the turning of the tassel, the WSN Class of 2020 enjoyed the night together. Standard photos / Barrett Edge

Editor’s Note: For more pictures from the event, check out next week’s edition of the Standard.