McARTHUR — Graduates of the Vinton County High School Class of 2020 had the longest senior skip day in the school’s history, according to Vinton County High School co-valedictorian and class president Owen Salyer.
He and his fellow graduates arguably had the most unconventional senior year any Vinton County High School student has experienced.
To start, the commencement in and of itself was far from the traditional graduation ceremony. Instead of a procession of students pouring through the high school halls, a procession of cars could be seen making its way to the high school on Sunday, May 17.
Community doesn’t take a break during pandemics. Families piled into their vehicles, and business owners and other area residents posted signs in their windows or yards to show well wishes for the Class of 2020. Diana Kempton-Rhodes also made protective face masks for every student in the class. Area law enforcement escorted the graduates into town, and they were saluted by a McArthur Police Department during their procession.
Creativity also doesn’t take a break during pandemics. Although some students still decorated their caps, students also had the opportunity to decorate their vehicles for Vinton County High School’s drive-thru commencement ceremony. Families opted for balloons, streamers, banners and even signs with photos of their graduates. Also spotted was a car that had a large graduation cap fastened to its roof.
Commencement speakers lamented the experiences the Class of 2020 missed out on because of the coronavirus pandemic: spring sports, student banquets, senior field trips, prom. The class as a whole also lost precious time with one another before students separately enter into new chapters of their lives.
“Things don’t always go as planned,” co-valedictorian Jade Kempton-Trainer noted. “But we can choose to face challenges with optimism and hope.”
Like Kempton-Trainer, students and faculty only briefly visited what was lost during this time; many chose to view the current circumstances with humor and as an opportunity for growth.
Co-valedictorian Rylee Fee took time in her commencement address to reflect on her love of running and how much joy running around her Vinton County has brought her over the years.
“If you haven’t seen me, your dog probably has,” she said. In total, she estimates she has ran more than 1,000 miles in the county.
Success doesn’t take a break during pandemics. Vinton County High School Principal JJ Milliken noted that the Class of 2020 has five valedictorians and one salutatorian, as well as 28 honors students, 33 National Honors Society members, two recipients of Ambassador Torch Awards, TVC honorees in Cross Country, girls basketball, volleyball and boys basketball, a graduate with perfect attendance throughout her entire school career (Josie Ousley) and eight students who enlisted in the military.
Finally, hope doesn’t take a break during pandemics.
“I’m so happy that despite the circumstances, we’re still here together,” co-valedictorian Abrianna McManis said. She thanked her parents, family, coaches, teachers and fellow graduates for supporting her.
Co-valedictorian Alyssa McKinniss voiced the same sentiments: “Every year has its ups and downs, and this isn’t the commencement we expected, but we just finished one chapter of our lives.”
Salutatorian Lexie Walker quoted Dr. Seuss in her commencement address. “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.”
“Although it’s really hard to not do that right now,” she said.
Those who graduated from the Class of 2020 are the following: Daniel Asher Abele, Lafe Justin Adkins, Maxwell Lucas Anderson, Gavin Hunter Arbaugh, Jacob Levi Arthur, William Larry Kenneth Arthur, Logan William Baker, Abigail Elisabeth Bakies, Rosalinda Ann Bapst, Riley Thomas Barnes, Nathan James Beckner, Dakota Ray Berryman, Adam Lee Betts, Kelsey Dawn Beyer, Zackery Thomas Blair, Ethan James Blanton, Amanda Kay Boring, Chelsea Brianna Bryan, Makayla Nicole Camp, Kaymen Kole Canode, Kaitlyn Mae Carpenter, Brett Michael Case, Luke McKenzie Caskey, Jordan Ray Champion, Justin Tyler Chaney, McKenzie Lee Channell, Austin Layne Christian, Jamie Shyann Clary, Kaitlyn Nicole Clowes, Jeremiah Matthew Clowes, Zackery Nathaniel Coleman, Brodee Nalyn Collins, Haley Noel Collins, Joshua Allen Corley, Katelyn Elaine Cox, Kasey Lynn Daniels, Kassidy Ann Daniels, Alliyah Lynn Dawson, Ethan Parker Dougherty, Jacob Wesley Dover, Joseph Michael Dover, Eli Daniel Downs, Barbara MaeAnn Marie Dunn, Jasmine Mackenzie Ann Elkins, Rylee Elyse Fee, Hayden Robert Fetherolf, Okey Wallace Fitzwater, Austin Lloyd Fout, Jamie Lee Frank, Courtney Lynn Frazier, Zoe Elizabeth Games, Emma Jo Gilliland, Noah A. Graves, Harley Nicole Gregory, Marcazia Jasmine Griffith, Jaymee Lea Grigsby, Mackenzie Paige Grigsby, Gia Leanne Gross, Mason Ray Hall, Brooke Riley Harber, Steven Dean Harlan, Autumn Marie Harris, Morgan Elisabeth Hayes, Josie Lynn Hembree, Harmony Tierra, Chantel Henderson, Jacob Edward Hudnell, Maylea Olivia Huff, Mason Jeffrey Huston, Ryan Gadge Jonas, Emily Kathryn Jean Jones, Kyle Thomas Justice, Jade Olivia Kempton — Trainer, Emily Nicole Kight, Cassidy Renea King, Sydnee Elizabeth Knox, Brodie Chase Lambert, Anna Mary Lang, Hunter Isaiah Legg, Alec Tyler Lizak, Zachary Jonathon Long, Levi Gabriel Mace, Serena Love Marshall, Brooklyn Paige Martin, Kelsi Jade Martin, Destini Sylvia McCartney, Chloe Grace McCarty, Taylor Bryce McFerren-Stephenson, Shannon David McGinnis II, Gretchen Elise McIntire, Alyssa Nicole McKinniss, Abrianna Hope McManis, Trace Anthony McManis, Charlie Everett McNally, Stephen Alexander Mineer, Taylor Rose Moore, Steven Lee Morris Jr., Luca James Mullins, Gabberial Emmily Murphy, Dena Marin Myers, Zeke Allyn Newman, Kayla Marie Nichols, Merishika Lynn Nicholson, Dale Allen Ohm III, Josie Layne Ousley, Dakota Ray Owings, David Preston Peoples, Bryce Levi Perry, Morgann Elizabeth Perry, Kaylen Nicole Petty, Derik Thomas Wayne Piatt, Timothy Ryan Pierce, Nicholas Evan Pittman, Jaryn Elise Pollock, Valerie Elizabeth Pratt, Sydney Dominique Quackenbush, McKenzie Ann Radabaugh, Lilith Kiana Radcliff, Okala Renee Reffett, Dennis Eugene Robinette, Breanna Rachelle Roddy, Jacob Tristan Rogers, Justen Edward Ross, Kelsey Ann Rutter, Emily Rose Salyer, Owen Grant Salyer, Chaylin Dawn Savage, MaKinzie Erin Scarberry, Kaitlynn Dawn Sexton, Hunter Jacob Sharp, Jacelynn Renae Sharp, Allexia Gabriella Sinclair, Felicity Raine Smith, Sidney Aliece Stepien, Aaron Matthew Stevens, Isiah David Tackett, Caytlyn Ann Thompson, Eric Robert Toney, Thomas Edward Travis, Daisy June Vanover, Jonathon Daniel Vanover, Andrew Scott Walker, Lexie Elizabeth Walker, Logan Arther Ward, Steven Hunter Webb, Jacob Andrew Wells, Lora Jo Wells, Olivia Claire Wells, Bryar Levi Whalen, Faith Ann White, Hunter Ryan Whiteman, Alyssa Faye Wilkinson, Brittany Lynn Wilks, Darcy Ann Williams, Quinton Wayne Williams, Courtney Madison Winnett, Terrence Mason Woodall, Marsha Ann Workman, Tania May Worrix, Tyanna Michelle Worrix and John Wesley Wright.