by Brittany Holst —
I graduated as valedictorian of Middle College High School, Class of 2010.
It was one of the biggest milestones in my life. Loved ones gathered at the Orpheum Theatre to watch my fellow classmates and I walk across the stage to receive our diplomas.
Fast forward to 2020. Graduations are much different. When students began their senior year in August 2019, they were looking forward to a traditional graduation ceremony. They dreamed of sitting with their fellow classmates and hearing their loved ones celebrating as they walk across stage to receive their diploma.
No one could have fathomed that, when the time came, things would not be as imagined. The world and graduating classes of 2020 were devastated by the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Yes, a virus that basically shut down the whole world continues to have an effect on the nation.
Due to COVID-19 and social distancing, Shelby County Schools officials and administrators came up with a creative way of making this milestone a memorable occasion for the graduating high school students.
Schools throughout the city held drive-through graduations.
Students in cap-and-gown attire lined up in decorated cars, filled with their screaming loved ones, waited their turn to drive up to receive their diploma, which represents the official end of their high school lives.
Sparkle Jordan, mother of Brandon Eulls, a graduate of White Station High School, said, “As soon as they called my baby’s name the tears just started falling for one reason: I’m so proud of this baby.”
Jordan feels secure with her son moving into adulthood. He has the necessary tools to make it in life.
“The first tool being God fearing, the second being understanding the importance of education and the third tool being (the) responsibility and understanding that a man who doesn’t work doesn’t eat. Lastly, the reminder that this world doesn’t owe you anything. You got this,” she said.
Michele Harrison, grandmother of Shadiamond Armstrong, a graduate of Melrose High School, was filled with excitement.
“My first grand baby has graduated. Wow! I’m a proud grandmother and thank God for his Grace and Mercy,” Harrison said.
April Jackson extended words of wisdom to her daughter Ebonye, a graduate of Memphis Academy of Health Sciences High School.
Jackson advised, “Always remember that the sky is the limit, so reach for the moon. Even if you miss it, you will be among the stars.”
Ebonye plans to attend Southwest Tennessee Community College as a music major before attending the University of Memphis. She dreams of becoming a singer and songwriter.
I had the pleasure of witnessing Hamilton High School’s Class of 2020 drive-through graduation celebration. I could feel the excitement as cars, some decorated, lined the streets to be greeted by faculty and friends as they received their diplomas.
Nadjah Dixon said, “Graduating feels great. I’m going to trade school to become a cosmetologist and will eventually have my own business as a salon owner.”
Hamilton High School Principal James Q. Bacchus I and Assistant Principal Nancy Harrison greeted each student with congratulatory wishes as they distributed diplomas.
Bacchus’ message to his graduating students was to remember what matters the most: faith, family and service.
He said, “If they commit themselves to service, everything else will be fine.”
About the first ever drive-through graduation, Bacchus said, “It was a new experience that met the goal. Everyone seemed to be happy about it. The kids were happy and that was the main goal.”
GALLERY: (Photos by Brittany Holst)
As a former valedictorian, I salute all 2020 graduates and leave a few words of encouragement as they transition to their next phase of life.
You are strong and can accomplish any goal you desire. With so much going on in the world, understand that you have a voice and the ability to make a change.
Whether you’d like to be a teacher, attorney, doctor, cosmetologist, entrepreneur, politician, or whatever your goal, you will have the power to touch the lives of so many individuals.
As you enter the life of adulthood, there will be many trials and tribulations, but always stay true to yourself and your goals.
Never give up!
As you make your journey through life, remember to value connections and network as much as you can!
Celebrate your successes and learn from your mistakes as they should never be looked at as defeat, but as learned lessons.
Above all, be conscious of your finances, have fun and enjoy life. Congratulations and show the world all the greatness you are made of.
(Brittany Jackson was part of the first corps of iTeen reporters for The New Tri-State Defender. Now as Brittany Holst, her iMom column is a periodic look at motherhood through millennial eyes.)