ASHTON — Better late than never.
There were no cap tosses, no handshakes or even hugs between lifelong friends, but the Hannan High School Class of 2020 still had its day in the sun Saturday morning as the school hosted its 91st commencement ceremony at the Craigo Athletic Complex in Mason County.
Complying with health guidelines meant to keep students and the public safe, HHS handed out 45 diplomas at the in-person graduation held about a month later than originally intended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Graduates entered the football field to the sounds of Pomp and Circumstance, and each graduate was placed six feet apart upon being seated. Senior Hannah Trippett led the crowd in saying the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by Principal Stephen Pritchard introducing both the guests and the student speakers.
The Summa Cum Laude student representatives were Sydney Holley and Emily Deal, who respectively graduated first and second in the class.
Holley spoke first, noting that the long journey had finally reached it’s end.
“It’s an honor to be standing before you on such a memorable occasion. For six long years we have walked the halls of Hannan High School, waiting for this moment, and now it has finally arrived,” Holley said. “We have come a long way from the bright-eyed seventh graders we entered Hannan’s doors as. We have grown, matured and found ourselves somewhere along the way.
“Persevering through difficult situations builds character. The struggle makes you stronger. We have dreamed of receiving our diplomas for so long, and now it is finally our time. Along the way we have made memories that will stick with us for life and we have had many unforgettable moments.
“As this class goes forward and begins this new chapter in life, remember how strong and resilient you truly are. The road ahead of you may not always be easy, but you were made to overcome. This year has thrown a lot of unexpected challenges our way, yet here we are … still standing strong, ready to take on the world.
“I pray that this new journey brings us unbelievable happiness and success, and that we never forget our incredible time at Hannan High School. I pray that we are fearless in all our endeavors and reach for even our most daring dreams.”
In closing, Holley offered an Ed Helms saying.
“Don’t be afraid of fear. Because it sharpens you, it challenges you, it makes you stronger; and when you run away from fear, you also run away from the opportunity to be your best possible self.”
Deal followed Holley’s uplifting words with a few of her own, including a quote from Charles Dickens.
“We can honestly say of our senior year that it was the best of times and the worst of times. The first half of our senior year was wonderful, with homecoming and spirit days, football and basketball games, clubs and friends. It was full of memories that we can cherish forever,” Deal said. “We didn’t exactly get a second half, not in the way we expected. At first, I didn’t want to mention the pandemic at all, but that would cost a chance to highlight what makes the Class of 2020 unique. Different doesn’t have to be bad.
“It is true that we do not deserve this attention any more than any graduating class before or after us. It is also true that one need not be deserving of kindness in order to receive it, and itself is the definition of kindness. The most valuable gift we received is irrefutable proof that happiness can be found in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
In closing, Deal provided one last quote — perhaps as a reminder of “home” — before wishing her classmates the best in their future endeavors.
“To me, it’s evident that our small school has an abundance of what Marina Keegan once called the opposite of loneliness. It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community … it’s just this feeling that there are people who are in this together. People who are on your team. That’s what we’ll carry with us forever. I wish my fellow graduates good luck, God bless you, and live long and prosper.”
Mrs. Cherry Weikle gave the presentation of honor graduates, then Mr. Pritchard presented the remainder of the class before handing the microphone over to Superintendent Cullen for the acceptance of the class.
Teacher Patty Blake then read the list of graduates as each was recognized while standing at their designated seats.
Honor students were given white, navy blue and gold cords to designate academic excellence as follows: (*) White and Cum Laude designation, 3.5-3.8 overall grade point average; (^) Navy blue and Magna Cum Laude designation, 3.81-4.0 overall grade point average; (+) Gold and Summa Cum Laude designation, 4.01 or better grade point average.
A complete list of graduates, as found in the official HHS commencement program is as follows:
Devrick Troy Burris, Sheridan Elizabeth Camp*, James Austin Chaffin+, Brandon Lee Chapman, Charles Matthew Chapman II, Kyndra Kay Chapman, Richard David Chapple III, Bethanie Faye Louise Cochran^, Joshua Ray Conner*, Jordan Matthew Craft*, Austin Lee Crank, Emily Victoria Deal+, Noah Benjamin DeWeese, Dakota Joe Duffer*, Lauren Grace Edmonds; Christopher Allen Exline, Kyle Thomas Fielder, Jordan Chase Fitzwater, David Liam Forshee^, Julie Ann Frazier+; Sierra Cheyenne Gibas+, Macy Nicole Gibson, Karria Dawn Hall+,Caleb Michael Holley, Sydnee Elizabeth Holley+, Jenna Christine Kennedy, Amber Irene Lee, Alexis Nicole Lloyd*, Kaitlin Brooke Lloyd*, Casey Lee Lowery, Summer Rain McDonald*, Cody Morgan Miller, Noah Elliot Montgomery, Violet Marie Moore*, Ashlyn Nicole Nibert, Dalton Levi Payne, Zachery Scott Plantz, Mckenzie RaeAnn Powell, Jasmine Nicole Rainey*, Aaron Hunter Smith, Kobe Damian Sofa, Chandler Dean Starkey, Hannah Nicole Tripett+, Emmie Marie Waugh^, and Elijah Owen Wilson.
Karria Hall then led the changing of the tassels, though due to health concerns related to COVID-19, no caps were thrown. The class exited the football field to “Pomp and Circumstance.”
The class favorites included colors (navy blue and white), flower (white rose), and song (Good Riddance by Green Day). The class motto was Tim McGraw’s quote, “Chase your dreams but always know the road that will lead you home again.”
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.