Valley High School holds graduation Tuesday

Published 8:25 am Wednesday, June 10, 2020

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VALLEY — Valley High School hosted graduation ceremonies unlike any other commencement experienced in the 81-year history of the school on  Tuesday. A total of 184 Class of 2020 seniors received their diplomas in four separate programs, each one taking place inside Valley Community Center following rules on social distancing recommended by the Alabama Department of Public Health.

The ceremonies were held indoors rather than on the field of Ram Stadium due to rain being in the forecast.

Graduation pretty much took up an entire day inside the Community Center. Each program lasted between 45 minutes to an hour with the first one getting under way at 9:30 a.m., a second one following at noon, the third one at 2:30 p.m. and the final one at five o’clock. A stage was set up on the far side of the Community Room. The graduates-to-be sat in four spaced-out rows facing the stage.

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Seated behind them were parents, family members and well wishers, all of whom clapped and yelled enthusiastically when their favorite graduate’s name was called. Standing behind a lectern on the right side of the stage, counselor Tolandra Harris called out each name as the senior climbed stairs to the stage. VHS Principal Dr. Sherry Ashe awarded the diplomas on the left side of the stage. Each new VHS alumnus descended a second flight of stairs where they were given a small gift wrapped in orange and blue paper. The gifts were fashioned by Dr. Ashe and the staff. Each one noted that the student had been born in the year following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and that they had graduated amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senior speakers Reese Ansley Bryson, Miss VHS Andie Elizabeth Roberts and Mr. VHS Kenyion Vashawn Barnes spoke about how the coronavirus interrupted their final year of high school. Their remarks were recorded and presented on a big screen via a ZOOM cast.

“The whole world changed our senior year, but the memories we made will last us for a lifetime,” said Bryson, who thanked the teachers, administrators and staff the students had had throughout their schooling. “Looking back, we have experienced many happy times, and have come a long way,” she said. “These last four years have flown by. Congratulations fellow seniors. We have so much to look forward to. I wish you all the best.”

Miss VHS Andie Roberts said she wasn’t looking at this day in terms of the COVID-19 shutdown, the senior year or the four years of high school. It was the culmination of 13 years in the local school system, starting with kindergarten.

“Our middle school years made for a major change, but it was something we needed,” she said. “We went through good, the bad and the awkward. In our freshman year at Valley High, it seemed like we were in the biggest school in the world. We experienced so much growth between the years of 14 and 18.