GRAFTON—The Grafton High School (GHS) Class of 2021 gathered on McKinney Field on Tuesday evening for their final time as high school students.
Family and friends filled the bleachers to watch their graduate cross the stage and claim their coveted diploma during Grafton High School’s Class of 2021 Commencement ceremony.
Principal Lori Shumaker welcomed the guests to the celebration, who were then serenaded by a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem, performed by the Entertainers Edition L senior members.
One hundred-thirty-nine students sat proudly and listened to the wise words offered by this year’s Valedictorian, Skylar Sayge Wooddell, who spoke to her class about their ability to overcome adversity and the lessons that they have learned along the way.
“Graduation is a time of reflection. We are here today to think of the fun we have had, the struggles we have experienced and the people who have stuck with us through it all,” she opened. “Our class is unique, our experience at Grafton High School has been marked with uncertainty and change.”
The Class of 2021 faced two years of a teacher strike to begin their time at GHS and their next two years would see them facing the difficulty and uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic brought about.
“I am certain that our four years here have not been what anyone would have expected,” Wooddell voiced. “Regardless of our expectations, this time together has taught us so many lessons.”
One of those lessons included to look for those who had been a support for the students in their endeavors. In doing so, she asked her classmates and attendees to take a moment to recall at least one individual who had helped to encourage and drive them to do their best and push through adversity.
“Remember this as we move on to the next chapter of our lives: may we not forget the challenges we endured throughout high school and the outcome of our efforts,” Wooddell expressed. “As you reflect upon the past four years, take pride in what you have accomplished.”
She encouraged her fellow classmates to never let life’s uncertainty and unexpected changes to deter them from pursuing their dreams.
“Take your enthusiasm to achieve the unachievable with you,” she said. “During times it would have been expected for us to fail, we came together, stronger than ever to achieve what didn’t seem possible at the time. Our determination allowed us to be here today in our caps and gowns, and that is a feat in and of itself. We are a class of overcomers!”
Salutatorian Riley Rebecca Moore voiced that GHS had been a place that helped to shape her and her classmates, and that while high school is often referred to as the best part of one’s life, she believes what’s to come could be even better.
“High school can be fun and exciting, but I want to challenge all of you to not let it be the best time of your life,” she voiced. “Let it be the foundation for your life.”
She said that hardships and loss throughout her four years have helped to learn perseverance, and part of that was due to the support system present at GHS.
“I could not have made it through the difficulties of the past few years without the help of my friends, my family and my teachers,” Moore said. “Life is a series of challenges, and if we do not face these challenges, we will never grow.”
She encouraged the Class of 2021 to take pride in their actions, to surround themselves with supporters and to never let anything hold them back.
“Make every chapter of your life amazing,” she commented. “Instead of believing that high school is the best part, make it the best start. The world is waiting for you!”
It was then Principal Lori Shumaker’s turn to address the class that she began her time as principal with.
“You guys have left an impression on me that I will always carry with me,” she expressed.
She recalled the way in which the class came together over their four years of high school, something that Shumaker said she had never experienced before.
Through her address, she touched on three important aspects to life she hoped the students would always remember.
“They are first, not giving up and overcoming; second, finding a path; and third, finding your people,” Shumaker explained.
In her final lesson to her pupils she shared, “You have to take your defeats and find another path. It’s ok if you fail, just look for another path or try harder.”
“When you hit a wall, you might need to go through it, over it, under it, around it or break it down, and that’s when you need to find your people that will help you,” Shumaker asserted. “Find people rooting for you to succeed. I can’t tell you guys how proud I am of you!”
With that, Shumaker presented the Grafton High School Class of 2021 to Superintendent Christy Miller, who accepted and congratulated them on their graduation.
The students were called one by one to accept their diplomas, before turning their tassels and tossing their caps.
Hugs, high fives, laughter and tears were seen as the students celebrated their successes over the past four years, as their class song, “You’re Gonna Miss This” played in the background. After the Alma Mater was sung, the newly graduated class exited the field, on a mission to follow their dreams.