LEWISBURG — The graduating class of Tri-County North High School was recognized with a parade prior to its commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 27, and honored with a celebratory fireworks display that evening.
TCN’s 66 graduating seniors arrived in a processional to the traditional “Pomp & Circumstance” — only this time in their vehicles for social distancing purposes.
“What a year this has been,” superintendent Bill Derringer said in his welcome to those in attendance at the graduation event held at the school’s practice field. “I would be remiss if I didn’t take just a minute to thank each of our students for what they have endured since last March, the sacrifices that they have gone through, and the adversities that they have overcome have been like nothing we’ve ever dealt with before.
”I would also like to thank the Tri-County North teaching staff and all of our employees for doing everything they could to keep our students and themselves as safe as possible this school year,” he continued. “We placed many additional responsibilities on our employees this year, and they did an outstanding job with everything they were asked to do. I would like to thank our parents. You have stepped up to the plate, each time we’ve asked something of you. And you’ve been very instrumental in your children’s education — the past 13 years, but especially important since the start of the pandemic last year. The success of the students graduating tonight has been greatly dependent upon your support.”
Derringer also gave special thanks to the Community of Faith Church for organizing and supporting a way to feed TCN students last summer, and for donating 1,000 lunches recently when TCN was forced to close its kitchen for a week due to the pandemic.
“Although you may not realize it, the situation that was thrust upon you has helped to mold you into the person that you are,” Derringer told the soon-to-be graduates.
Senior Class Advisor Tricia Shields thanked the school administration and parents and spoke to the students.
“The first thing I want to say is, you are all important,” she said. “If nobody’s told you that, I want to say it again, each one of you is so important. You have a purpose, you have value. You’re put here on this Earth, I believe, because there’s a reason to be here for you. Sometimes we’re not sure what our purpose is — you’re young. You’ve got time to figure that out.
“There is one thing that I want to tell you that I continue to tell my kids and I will continue to tell my kids and you guys till the day I die: be proud of who you are.
“Don’t ever be afraid to be different. Don’t ever be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Don’t ever be afraid to try something new. There [are] people that are always going to judge you and criticize you, there [are] those haters, but don’t let them stop you from doing something that makes you happy and that makes you proud.”
Salutatorian Sidney Jackson congratulated her fellow classmates.
“I would also like to give out a special thank you to my friends and family who have supported me throughout the years and helped me prepare for my future,” Jackson said. “This town, my teachers and coaches, have all given me memories I won’t forget. As we leave here tonight, I wish you all the best of luck in all your futures.”
TCN’s 2021 valedictorians were Rylan Bayer, Lillian Davis and Kaimee Kinsely.
Davis thanked her family for their support, and the school’s teachers, administrators and other staff who guided the class to be “better students and people.”
“After today, we will all be taking different paths, making different choices, and living different lives,” she told her classmates. “The choices we make are going to affect the rest of our lives and help us find the job or lifestyle that we will pursue. However, finding this won’t be easy. Life offers so many opportunities, and I recommend taking up as many as you can. Our lives are never set in stone. It is important to always be happy with what you do, rather than just searching for a career based on it’s salary.”
She continued, “My advice to the underclassmen, is to take advantage of all the opportunities that even remotely interests you. After graduation, you may never get the opportunity to join some of the clubs or sports offered during high school. School sports and clubs are the biggest way I formed bonds with some of my closest friends today.
“Attending Tri-County North has provided me with the best 13 years of my life, and many of my classmates always made me feel welcome. All the inside jokes and memories we have made will stay with us forever. And I know that they will always hold a special place in my heart,” Davis said. “I am very proud to be a member of the Class of 2021. And I know that every single one of us will continue to do great things in the future. This is not only the ending of something great, but the beginning of a new adventure.”
Kinsley said graduation starts a new chapter in their lives.
“Today we truly enter the real world, whatever that may look like for each of you. Some of you may enter a trade school to gain specialized education, others may enroll in a university to earn a degree, and some others may enter the workforce right away. No matter what form your path in life takes, as long as it is something you’re truly happy with, it will always be worth it.
“I believe that one day we’ll all be able to look back on our time in high school and be grateful for all the things we were able to learn, accomplish and experience,” she continued. “Now that our school life is over, the rest of our lives will begin. We’ll be able to decide how we live our lives, whether to shoot for the stars, or to just do what makes us happy. But regardless of how you decide to live your life, your life is what you make of it, so make it count.”
TCN High School Principal Kristin Mills left the graduating class with some final remarks.
“I want you to remember this moment, this day, this year. Remember all of it. This is an experience that will serve you in the future. You persevered through some pretty tough times, and you’ve done so while representing the Tri-County North Panthers with dignity. You may not always have the right tools, at the right time, but you will always be able to rely on your strength and courage. I ask that you do that, whenever called upon. Accept challenges, face your fears and stand up for what is right. Thank you, seniors, and remember you always have a family here at Tri-County North.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on Twitter @emowenjr