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Troup County School System hosts virtual graduations

The Troup County School System’s Class of 2020 officially became high school graduates Monday evening during a virtual graduation.

Callaway High School, LaGrange High School and Troup County High School each participated in a pre-recorded ceremony where the class president, salutatorian, valedictorian principal and TCSS Superintendent Brian Shumate made comments. The graduation was streamed on the TCSS website and on Facebook Live. 

“While the school year did not end as planned, I want to thank and congratulate all of our seniors on your outstanding work, your great attitudes throughout these past few months and your resolve not to be defined by this crisis,” Shumate said.

As of Tuesday, TCSS still plans to host in-person graduations from the three high schools on July 23, 24 and 25. Each ceremony is scheduled to take place at 8:30 a.m. Shumate said Monday to The LaGrange Daily News that he still wants to host those ceremonies and make a final decision about the fate of those events soon.

“You will not be remembered as the Class of 2020 — the class had missed out on their final months of school and all the senior activities,” Shumate said during the ceremonies. “But as the class who preserved and turned a worldwide pandemic into a growth opportunity.”

He told the students they would come out of the COVID-19 pandemic as stronger people with stronger families and a stronger community.

“Whether you go to college, go in the military or go to work, take every opportunity you can to learn more, achieve more and build lasting relationships with those around you,” Shumate said. “And never be afraid to build new relationships and challenge yourself to learn new things.”

During the Callaway graduation, there was a special mention of Dylan Norvell, who died in a car accident in April.

“Our thoughts go out to the family of Dylan Norvell, a member of the class of 2020, who is no longer with us, but whose memory is in all of our hearts today,” Callaway Principal Jonathan Laney. “Your family is in our prayers.”

Callaway valedictorian Jared Nation said he should be sitting next to his classmates, getting ready to walk across the stage.

“Instead, the coronavirus has turned our senior year into a spectacle for the rest of the world,” he said.

Nation said some are going to college, to work, the military, and others will create their own path.

“But no matter what, live your life. Live it to the fullest. All of you,” he said. “Even those of you who are family and friends listening, live your life like you have no time left or live it like coronavirus is going to take it away again.”

For LaGrange High, Libby Criswell said her classmate’s high school experience ended in an “interesting way, to say the least.”

“When we left school on March 12, we were completely unaware that it was our last day of high school ever,” she said. “We didn’t know to say goodbye to our friends to take lots of pictures together in the senior parking lot or to walk slowly out of the building and take everything in for the final time. This isn’t the graduation ceremony that any of us wanted or expected to have either.”

Criswell said even during uncertain times to show resilience and look toward the future.

“Let us not dwell on the way our high school years ended, but instead remember them for the personal growth we experienced and the memories we made with those we love,” she said.

For Troup High, Collin Sanders said he was asked to speak about moving forward, but before he could do that, he needed to talk about how far the Class of 2020 has come.

“Senior year wasn’t the year we imagined, but it was the year we got,” Sanders said. 

“And we’ve accepted that. Because we’ve grown, we’ve learned, and we understand that we have a special purpose in this life.”

He said the disappointment of his classmates’ senior year would not define them or destroy them.

“The class of 2020 is stronger than ever. We are stronger because we faced adversity head-on,” he said. “We were born during a period of incredible uncertainty and unrest in our country. While we did not know or understand the full weight of what happened on 9/11 until we were older, somehow, we knew we were born to overcome.”

As the 2020 seniors will look back on the memories of their senior year, Sanders said the value of what happened would be clear.

“Every generation has a story to tell, and this one is ours,” he said.