Vincent Class of 2020 members turn their tassels

By SCOTT MIMS / Staff Writer

During Vincent High School’s graduation ceremony Tuesday night, June 2, class valedictorian Paisley Armstrong shared many things the class had to give up due to a year cut short by COVID-19—spring sports, awards day, yearbook signing, senior trips, senior luncheon, ROTC awards and more.

But Armstrong’s message did not focus on their losses, but rather their accomplishments in spite of loss:

“I am excited to see the wonderful futures of each and every one of you,” she said. “Our class has overcome tragedy and hardship beyond school alone to finally walk across this stage and be honored for our achievements.”

Armstrong said the relationships of not just 2020, but also the 12 years that preceded it, made the class members who they are today, teaching them friendship, leadership and familial values.

“Our friendships from kindergarten to senior year have made us more than just friends. We are a family,” she said.

In her announcement of the Golden Stinger Award—presented by the top 10 class members to the faculty member who has had the greatest impact upon each—Armstrong named Landon Manning and explained the reason for her choice.

“I have chosen Mr. Manning because he has always stood by me. He was my counselor, teacher and one of my best friends in the school. After my dad passed away, Mr. Manning gave me a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear,” Armstrong said.

Harold Garrett, member of the Vincent Class of 1970 and the stadium’s namesake, delivered the commencement address.

Garrett challenged the class to make their graduation night something to remember and shared a couple of inspirational stories to make his point—in the first story, he spoke of a recent graduate who now owns a small construction company.

“He said a teacher told him once, ‘You will never amount to anything.’ When he told me that, it hurt,” Garrett said, adding, “He has amounted to something. He has proved that person wrong.”

The second story was about a young man Garrett had coached at Vincent who tried out for football his senior year but had no previous experience in the sport. While the student was not very athletic, he was placed on the defensive line and during practice Garrett began to notice that he made a tackle nearly every play.

“He made his way from being just a walk-on that nobody gave a chance; he was one of our best football players that year, probably our best defensive player because he literally would not give up,” Garrett said. “He got blocked every play, but he got up every play.”

Garrett referenced Proverbs 24:16, “A righteous man falls down seven times, and he gets up again,” to encourage the graduates to never give up in the face of failure.

The Landon Wood Memorial Scholarship was presented by Wood’s aunt, Wendi Cline Jernigan, to Valeria Arteaga Garcia.

Jernigan shared that Wood would have been a senior this year and would have graduated with his class Tuesday night.

“I know that he is looking down on all of you and cheering you on,” she said.

Wood was recognized in a special moment observed at the end of the presentation of diplomas.

The class salutatorian, Alayna Jean Reynolds, also had some encouraging words for her classmates despite the pandemic and other seeming setbacks:

“I cannot help but believe that it will only make us stronger and better able to adapt to anything and everything that life has to throw at us. We are well equipped for the change ahead of us. I feel I owe much of my certainty to my mentors I have found within the walls of Vincent High School.”

VHS science teacher Dr. Connie Schultz presented the senior Class of 2020, and left class members with a thought from the famous Albert Einstein:

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world and all there ever will be to know and understand.”