Shannon High School held three graduation ceremonies on Friday night for its Class of 2020 graduates.

More than 130 seniors walked the stage – spread out across three groups due to COVID-19 social distancing guidelines – in the Lynn Lindsey Gymnasium with family and friends in attendance.

“Knowing the risks that COVID poses, we wanted to balance the need for a traditional ceremony for our students with the need for providing safety for them as well, along with the attendees at the program,” Shannon High School Principal Dr. Jason Arledge said.

During the welcome address, Zenobia Brent said that although “we missed out on so many things that every senior looks forward to doing before they graduate,” the Class of 2020 should be the author of their own story and determine their own success.

Salutatorian Seth Stephen said that as he wrote his speech, he thought about people who had a dream and didn’t let anyone tell them “no,” like Martin Luther King, Jr., Lebron James and Kobe Bryant.

“Class of 2020, I believe that we should not only face our fears and conquer them, but we should also face our dreams and do the same,” Stephen said.

Valedictorian Keely Stafford recalled the three months of school that she and her class missed due to COVID-19 and compared that lost time to missing steps on a ladder.

“Right now we’re climbing our ladder into adulthood and it’s as if someone has knocked off those last three steps,” Stafford said. “We sit here and we realize it’s not easy now, but life never is. We’re expected to take this leap from our childhood into our adulthood without those last steps and it’s not fair and it can be scary, but it’s reality.”

She encouraged her classmates to pursue a future in whatever they feel is God’s purpose for them.

“I hope you remember that nothing can take away who you were created to be and what you were created to do, because now we are the future,” Stafford said.

After presenting the recipients of scholarships and awards, the graduates received their diplomas and sang their alma mater, which was led by Cameron Mayes.

Arledge presented the graduates and they threw their caps into the air during their last moments together as a class.

Coty Beard, a 2020 graduate, said it felt good to walk the stage.

“I just want to thank the teachers and all of the staff for helping support us through this hard time,” Beard said.

Morgan Flemons, another 2020 graduate, said she was ecstatic that the graduation ceremony was able to happen.

“To hear all of my awards, my name being called, it was something that I never expected to happen,” Flemons said. “So I’m just blessed and glad they made a way.”

blake.alsup@journalinc.com

Twitter: @AlsupTheWriter

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