Graduation filled a major void for Pelham

By CONNIE NOLEN | Community Columnist

“Would you have done things differently on March 13 if you had known that Friday was your last day to walk the halls of Pelham High School?” said PHS Valedictorian Erin Long in her graduation speech. “I know that I would have.”

Even from my perspective, in the press box, I could see vigorous nods. Or maybe those heads seemed to be nodding with agreement. Yes, Erin Long, there were details that we’d have all tended to differently.

After schools dismissed on Friday, March 13, the governor announced that all Alabama schools would close the next week. Still at school when the announcement released, I left a stack of “to-do” items to close-out on the next Monday morning.

Yet Monday never came. A graduation announcement felt very incomplete as most Alabama high school seniors were declared graduates. While the decision was absolutely the correct decision, the lack of the literal “pomp and circumstance” left everyone connected to the class of 2020 feeling this profound loss.

Watching these 2020 grads fill the football field at Pelham High School for their actual graduation ceremony on Thursday, May 21, to take photos with diplomas and sing the alma mater filled the void. The students’ speeches barely referenced senior activities they had missed. Perhaps the class of 2020 has learned to appreciate the wisdom of poet Mary Oliver who wrote:

“Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”

Carla Aleman, both Class President and Salutatorian, and Erin Long, Valedictorian, followed Oliver’s advice focusing on the positives—recalling events that the class of 2020 did experience together.

Ultimately, the graduating class of 2020 was together one last time, on a field they love, in the presence of those who love them, paying attention—and being astonished—experiencing their unique graduation ceremony.

Pelham High School’s graduations have had several venues, yet the class of 2020 is the first PHS graduating class to receive diplomas on Bobby Hayes Field—and what a story they all have to tell!

Good luck PHS class of 2020. Your teachers share your joy and anticipate your future accomplishments.