Wilson Central High School graduated 410 seniors and celebrated a year of academic success during an outdoor commencement ceremony held Friday.
The Class of 2020 posted an average GPA of 3.3 and an average ACT score of 21.6, with more than half of the students receiving scholarships to attend universities.
“I was super excited to actually get to have a ceremony,” graduate Gracie Aric said. “It was a blessing, because March 2 was the last time I saw almost everybody here. Now I’m going to UT Martin to play soccer this fall.”
School closures after the March 3 tornado and COVID-19 ended student athletes’ seasons along with the school year, so Aric is looking forward to being back on the field.
Her classmate Zach Hirchman, who also played soccer for WCHS, enjoyed reconnecting with friends and teammates but is changing course next semester.
“I’m going to Tennessee Tech University to major in mechanized engineering,” he said. “I want to do something in the automobile industry. Ever since I was younger I liked to work on things, and eventually I gravitated towards cars.”
Graduate Tyler Jeanneret also plans to work in the auto industry after studying diesel powered equipment technology at TCAT.
“My whole family’s in it, and growing up I spent a lot of time working on cars,” he said. “I’m hoping to start up my own shop here locally.”
WCHS Principal Travis Mayfield said he regrets that the students’ senior year saw several activities cancelled, but he said the class excelled despite the obstacles.
“We’ve got a lot of great students that are involved in a lot of great things, and they do a lot for other people,” Principal Travis Mayfield said. “They’re a great group, it’s been a pleasure being part of their high school experience.”
Student body president Haven O’Brien said she saw the class grow as people over the course of the semester because of the circumstances.
“We lost homes, schools, lives, normalcy, safety and our faith in humanity,” she said. “But with loss comes opportunity. We have an opportunity to learn, to grow and to have something different — something better. We’re adults stepping into the next stage of our lives, and we get to decide what tomorrow looks like.”
Salutatorian Marcella Rea said the class’ ability to move forward this year will help them keep doing so later in life.
“Carry the interests and hobbies shaping your personality with you in the future,” she said in her address to classmates. “Remember the upset of not being able to celebrate what drives you, and refuse to abandon your identity. Persevere through obstacles in life, from personal and professional struggles to pandemics, and continue to cherish this culture of individuality … remember, you’re not the only person proud of your achievement today.”
Among those supporting the graduates from the bleachers were Steve and Leigh Anne Ledford, who said their daughter Cassidy marked a huge milestone in graduating.
“I didn’t want to, but I cried when I saw her walk up and get her diploma,” Steve Ledford said. “It’s such a big accomplishment, and this semester has been really hard for her. We had the tornado and the coronavirus, and recently her grandmother died, so it’s been three things at once.”
Valedictorian Roshni Patel said the year presented unique challenges to the students but that their time at WCHS was filled with good memories.
“We, the Class of 2020, are a powerhouse of innovation and creativity,” she said. “We will push boundaries to make this world a better place. Always remember where you came from, and always remember your destination ... I know senior year hasn’t been what we imagined it to be, but we definitely made the most of it.”