Pelham holds graduation ceremony for Class of 2020

Published 8:19 am Friday, May 22, 2020

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By NATHAN HOWELL | Special to the Reporter

PELHAM – Despite the uncertainty and cancellations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pelham High School Class of 2020 was granted some relief when it walked across the stage clad in cap and gown to receive diplomas and celebrate achievements at the end of their high school journey.

With eased restrictions on public gatherings, the graduation ceremony was able to move forward at the Ned Bearden Stadium on the high school’s campus on Thursday, May 21. To ensure the safety of students and guests PHS implemented several measures including social distancing in the stadium and on the field.

PHS Principal Dr. Amanda Wilbanks began the ceremony by thanking school faculty, local officials, students and parents. She addressed the students she had come to know so well over the past years with some parting words of advice.

“What do you say to students who missed out on so many experiences this year,” began Wilbanks. “Move forward purposefully and do not dwell on the short hand you were dealt. Don’t be a victim of circumstances, life is full of hardships and unfortunately you learned that early.”

Valedictorian Erin Long had the privilege of speaking on behalf of the 221 graduates with a message focusing on persevering despite the great challenge that they faced.

“It is an honor to stand before you and say we made it,” Long said. “We are not an average class of high school students. In a time when tutoring sessions turned to Zoom calls and birthdays turned to drive by celebrations, we are the class that managed to graduate during a worldwide pandemic.”

Long went on to reflect on the past year and what was lost, but offered a message of optimism and hope for the future.

“I don’t think anyone would have guessed that March 13 would’ve been the last time we walked the halls of Pelham. I bet there are some things you would’ve done differently had you known that,” she said. “But we have made it out of the tunnel to the other side ready to take on the world and a new life.”

Salutatorian and Class President Carla Aleman acknowledged the challenges that the class faced but offered an optimistic view of their experience as a whole.

“I was going to say were really ending this year with a bang. Really, we started with a bang and ended with more than a boom,” Aleman said. “These past four years taught us persistence, these past four years taught us compassion, these past four years taught us to welcome our futures with open arms.”

The Class of 2020 featured 221 graduates, many who plan on going to college this fall. The graduates were collectively offered $4.2 million in athletic and academic scholarships

Though these students graduated in one of the most unprecedented times in recent history, there was nothing but optimism and celebration for what the graduates have accomplished and what lies ahead for them.

“Don’t let being a member of the Class of 2020 define you as being a victim of circumstance,” Wilbanks said. “Let this experience shape you into a better person.”

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