GWHS holds in-person graduation

GWHS holds in-person graduation

HIGH SCHOOL The J.T. Christopher Stadium on George Washington High School’s (GW) campus was filled with parents, family, friends and school staff on Tuesday for an in-person graduation for the Class of 2021.

At the stadium, 195 students sat next to their classmates on the football field where the GW Eagles have seen victory after victory. For the Class of 2021, their in-person ceremony was added to that list, after having spent the past year learning virtually or six feet apart with masks.

During the graduation, GW Principal Jay Lancaster told the class they learned a lesson on “appreciation versus expectation” while finishing their high school careers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The “normal” cycle of open houses, football games, homecoming, band competitions, SOL tests and more did not happen like they usually do.

Instead, students received Chromebooks and learned via Google Meets, came back to school for a very different version of in-person learning in November, and even resumed some sport activities with COVID precautions in place. This, Lancaster said, allowed the graduates to learn something that no other graduating class has before. “You learned that the Class of 2021 would not be stopped by anything,” Lancaster said.

“You learned how to pass your classes and how to be successful at anything that was thrown at you all while being appreciative for everything.”

In his speech titled “Smoke and Mirrors,” Salutatorian Nicolas West charged his fellow classmates not to try to find the “finish line” in life, and instead urged them to continue self-improvement.

“Eagles don’t wait patiently for their food to come to them,” West said. “They seek it out, and they get what they deserve. So I encourage you all to take what you deserve.”

Valedictorian Hannah Dow addressed the graduating class with her speech titled “Unwritten,” in which she quoted the well-known Natasha Bedingfield song by the same name. With no manual to tell the students how to navigate learning in the middle of a pandemic, Dow praised her classmates for figuring it out and thriving.

“I think it is important that we realize that uncertainty is really just another word for opportunity,” Dow said. “You may have heard the saying, ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going.’ The ladies and gentlemen sitting here before this stage are the tough. These Eagles are strong, they are resilient, they are determined, and they are capable.”