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MCHS Class of 2021 ultimately conquers COVID-19 challenges

May 28, 2021 - 00:00
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    The Morgan County High School Class of 2021 enters Bill Corry Stadium as “Pomp an Circumstance” plays.
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    Co-Salutatorian Taylor Frederick gives her commencement address.
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    After enduring one of the most challenging school terms ever, the students were emotional about its completion.

Morgan County High School’s Class of 2021 took the checkered flag last Friday night as Principal Dr. Miki Edwards handed out 119 diplomas to the first -- and hopefully last -- senior class to learn under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I can’t talk about our high school experience without talking about this last year,” Co-Salutatorian Noah Brown said. “Four-hundred-thirty-five days ago we all received a phone call from the board of education saying school was canceled because of COVID. I don’t think any of us could have imagined what would take place over the next year. We were quarantined from each other for months and finally saw each other in August but it wasn’t the same. We wore masks. We were socially distanced and also shared a constant shuffle of friends in and out of quarantine.”

Smith said that motivation to give maximum effort during football practices was difficult with all the uncertainty until long-time Coach Bill Malone -- who would retire at the end of the year -- assured the team that somehow they would have a football season.

“Deep down I know that we are all grateful and thankful for what [the Class of 2021] shared together,” Brown said. “We have special memories that no other class will ever understand. Always remember the struggles we overcame this year and use this as motivation to overcome any obstacle that you have in life.”

The Class of 2021 at MCHS and other schools across the nation endured many challenges on the way to receiving diplomas and set a fine example of what determined students can accomplish under trying circumstances.

“We all started out as freshmen trying to establish our identities and how we wanted to be perceived by others,” Taylor Frederick, Co-Salutatorian, said. “So what’s next for us? We’re all about to start a new part of our lives with new experiences, choices and responsibilities. Some of us will be going to college next, some will go into the military and some will take a year off just to figure life out. Whatever the path may be, it will be a change for each of us individually. To my fellow classmates, I’m so glad that I was able to be a part of this class. I’m grateful for the people I’ve come to know and the memories made. And I wish every single one of you the best in life.”

To conclude her remarks Frederick quoted Dr. Suess: “You have brains in your head You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re o your own. And you know what you know. And you are the on who’ll decide where to go.”

Valedictorian Simon LeClai said simply: “We made it,” sharing a list of 21 Century challenges the students have seen over the last 13 years. “We went through and are still going through a global pandemic and so much more. All of us here today kept our heads high and finished the drill. We dug our heels deep into the soil below and looked for greater horizons among everything that came our way.”

LeClair expressed his pride in his classmates. “I appreciate everyone in front of me. From the people that I’ve spent my entire life with to those passed by in the school hallways. Thank you for making my school experience just a little more positive.”

LeClair talked about his memories of Tinytown, field trips, homecoming, prom.

“After my words you will make that fateful walk to receive your diploma,” LeClair said. “If you are anything like me, you are terrified of the fateful walk you must take after graduation. The leaving of home, the leaving of friends, and the leaving of dependency as we abandon the parking lot tonight. I want everyone to know I’m as clueless as the next. I do not have an inkling of an idea of what might come or what I might do.”

LeClair said that the anxiety of change is one of the things that gives life beauty.

“Do not be scared,”LeClair said. “Do not worry about your capabilities. Life has a way of bringing you to the spot you were meant to be. If you still feel uneasy, take a look around you. Take a look at the glorious faces that have come to congratulate you on your accomplishments. They would not be here if they didn’t believe you all did something incredible.”

Principal Miki Edwards confessed a certain amount of disbelief that a graduation ceremony arrived after some of the COVID-19 projections bandied about last summer.

“But here we are,” Edwards said. “And, in keeping with our theme this year: It’s better if we’re together, I’ll be the first to confess I wasn’t sure how long we were going to be able to stay together. But after being away from the building since March you came back to school with a sweet almost reverent spirit. It seemed we were all grateful to see one another, and we truly realized the significance that being together holds as a school community. You and the families and our community stepped up and worked together with us to make it happen.”

School Superintendent Dr. Virgil Cole, congratulated the class of 2021 for enduring difficult times.

“Challenges and a pandemic molded and prepared you, from teaching you perseverance to sacrifice for the greater good,” Cole said. “They shaped you through each experience of life and conditioned you to get back up when you fell down. There are always those who may wonder if the next generation is up to the unknowable challenges the world will throw at them or if they will be as good as the ones that have come before. I have no doubt this senior class will be up to the challenge.”

Cole concluded his remarks with a quote from Helen Keller who said, “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.”

MCHS Summa Cum Laude

Christopher Bailey

Audrey Balicki

Aiden Benise

Noah Brown

Brennan Easton

Emily Farese

Taylor Frederick

Grayson Jarman

Sabrina Jones

Malik Kamil

Kailyn Kiefaber

Simon LeClair

Hannah Martin

James Martin

Sarah Mercer

Anna Nelson

Claire Nunn

Natalie Orellana

Jordin Overton

Sarah Porter

Hannah Rice

Jane Schalbach

Zoe Staton

Sara Van Horn

MCHS Magna Cum Laude

Abbey Adams

Elizabeth Adkins

Samantha Breda

Brooke Butler

Makenzie Canady

Anna Cox

Bennett Evans

Melanie Howard

Miracle Hunter

Anna Jenkins

Lucas Knight

Karlie Lane

Anderson Medford

Aaron Mullins

Kathryn Seymour

Kaitlyn Sims

Michael Tamasi

Michael Vaden

Audrey Wagner

MCHS Cum Laude

Jane Almand

McCormick Anderson

Landon Breedlove

Cheyanne Breedlove

Daisy-Jane Buck

Calvo Camp

Jaden Cooper

Elizabeth Day

Isabella Elwood

Concetta Ferri

John Harper

Isabella Harridge

Abigail Howard

Cambrey Johnson

Caleb Jones

Kevin Juarez

Riley Laney

Kimberly Phelps

Emily Rhoades

Marc Rivera

Michael Santos

Levi Whitaker

Hope Wimbush

Jessy Young

Keller Zamudio