Leaving their mark: Vincent celebrates special class of 2021

By WILLIAM MARLOW | Special to the Reporter

VINCENT – Vincent High School celebrated its class of 2021 on Tuesday, May 25, and held an outdoor commencement ceremony at the school’s football field.

Principal Lauren Yancey, a former alumna of the school herself, began the ceremony by welcoming those in attendance and recognizing the school’s current class of graduates for their accomplishments as well as their perseverance during the challenges of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Although many in the future will refer to this year as the year of the pandemic, Yancey said she will remember this group of students as the first class she led as principal of the school.

“I have worked with a lot of students over the years, but I never have been quite so proud as I am of you all right now. You have dealt with circumstances of unprecedented proportion,” Yancey said. “You were my first class as principal and so you are very special to me for those reasons.”

Yancey then recounted some of her favorite memories of the graduating class, and shared standout moments from each student’s time at school, including characteristics that she most associated with them.

Salutatorian Madelyn Walker also focused on the theme of resilience in light of the pandemic.

“I feel this is the best word to describe the class of 2021. Over the past year, we have gone through more things as a class than most classes do in four years,” she said. “A little over a year ago, we got the news that we would have three weeks off of school. We were so excited, but we were very wrong.”

Instead, Walker said a series of unfortunate events followed. In March, just at the start of the pandemic, fellow classmate Austin Brown died in a car accident. Brown, 17, was a native of Harpersville and was in the 11th grade at Vincent High School. He played football and was a member of the Junior R.O.T.C.

“The death of Austin was extremely hard for all of us because he was one of the sweetest people we knew,” Walker said.

Walker said her class, however, was able to persevere through even the worst of trials due the support of the school’s faculty and staff.

Valedictorian Toni Lee reflected on how much the students had matured during the past four years and thanked the school’s teachers in particular for endowing the class with a breadth of knowledge, helping them prepare for adulthood.

She especially appreciated her school for teaching her to adapt to life’s shifting circumstances, especially during the pandemic. Lee then described her shifting career goals from a pop star to journalist to now an engineering major in college.

“This is not because I have given up on my past aspirations, but because I am a different person now than I was then,” Lee said. “Even if your plans may change right now, remember that you are not quitting or failing. You are adapting and changing to the new you and that is never going to be a thing to be ashamed of.”

The ceremony ended with a commencement speech from Judge Embry J. Kidd, a fellow alumnus of the school, who reflected on the friendships that he had formed during his time at Vincent High School, and specifically acknowledged his life-long friend, Principal Yancey.

He said that he had been inspired by this class’ resilience in the face of the past year, and has strong confidence in the students’ abilities to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

“I have been amazed by the stories of the graduates and what they have been able to accomplish despite these difficulties,” he said. “Yancey told me of service projects, college acceptances and military enlistments, but most importantly that this community rose to meet the challenge and that this community’s strong bonds have helped the school emerge better than it was before.”

Photos available at Shelbycountyphotos.com.