CENTENARY — “Friday March 13th was a typical day at school for all of us, we went to our classes, did our work, had lunch and left as usual. Little did we know that would be our last day of high school. There were no goodbyes or farewells exchanged that day. No one expected this was the way our final year of high school would end. Many of you feel robbed because of this and rightfully so. We went through all of high school only to have the most exciting part of senior year be taken away…”
These were the sentiments of Grant Ryan Smith, graduate of the Gallia Academy Class of 2020. Smith gave a student address as part of GAHS’ virtual graduation commencement ceremony which was recently filmed. Smith was joined at the podium along with Macy Celeste Jones and Morgan E. Loveday, all representing the GAHS Class of 2020’s top 10 percent.
Each student in the GAHS Class of 2020 was also given the opportunity to “walk” and be recognized when receiving their diploma.
In her filmed speech, Jones likened her journey through Gallia Academy to a puzzle, specifically a Rubik’s Cube. She spoke about all the components which comprised and helped her complete the puzzle, including God and family, faith, friendships, scholastics and extracurricular activities, trust, morality and honesty and how moves were made “one turn at a time” with different degrees of success and progress.
“Now I am a senior, we all dreamt of finally being here,” she said. “We could all see the sides (of the puzzle) coming together and it was beginning to get clear. I remember thinking to myself, ‘just a few more months and it will all be over. But then something unexpected occurred, the coronavirus came along and scrambled up the puzzle right when it was almost completed. So many ‘last time for this’ and ‘last time for that’ we did not realize had already occurred. Who knew that we would not be doing the simple things again?”
Jones continued: “Now, as we move on to different paths…we all will be given an entirely new puzzle, a new cube all mixed up again, so I encourage all of you to pick up your cube and begin to work it. No matter how daunting it may appear, keep making those moves one by one, we all make progress and learn from each turn we take. I urge you to at least play the game, choose your puzzle, envision your Rubik’s Cube because when you finish, the satisfaction like I have today is overwhelming…the important part of a puzzle is not just completion but instead, all the moves you take to get there…”
In closing, she then displayed a fully solved Rubik’s Cube and stated, “So now I pick up my cube that is complete for now and say, ‘she believed she could, so she did.’”
Speaking next was Loveday.
“Despite what crazy things have happened these last few months, we are still graduating. All of us worked so hard to get here and every single one of you deserves that diploma… No matter what, this is an accomplishment that deserves to be celebrated. So congratulations to you. Despite everything, we’re here.
“We didn’t get to this day alone. Teachers, family, friends, janitors, bus drivers and so many more supported you. These people and many others had a hand in delivering you to this day. My hope for you is wherever you go and whatever you do, you find a way to help someone the way that someone helped you. My point is, someone somewhere helped you get to this moment and I encourage you to do the most with what you’ve been given.”
Loveday continued: “After today we’re off to new responsibilities and experiences… meet these with the goal of doing your best and nothing less.
“Be grateful, be proud, be confident and be yourself, you’ve spent the last four years discovering who you really are and now it’s time to be that person…”
Speaking next was Smith.
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t be here together in person but don’t let that downplay your accomplishments. Your hard work is not suddenly for nothing. This is the culmination of your efforts the past four years. And although this is far from a traditional graduation, the situation shouldn’t make this any less meaningful.”
Smith told his classmates “what lies ahead is for you to decide.” Like the speakers before him, he thanked those who helped get him through his high school journey, including family, friends and teachers.
“After today each of us will begin our own unique path. Regardless of what you plan to pursue, remember to always strive for excellence because all of you are capable of making a positive impact on the world.”
Principal Josh Donley also delivered remarks along with the presentation of honorary awards.
Top 10 percent of the class (in alphabetical order): Alexandra Noel Barnes; Calista Barnes Pierotti; Benjamin Luke Cox; Kirsten Laina Hesson; Mary Celeste Jones; Morgan E. Loveday; Peri Anna Martin; Katie Linh Queen; Cade Edward Roberts; Tessa Sue Skinner; Grant Ryan Smith.
National Honor Society: Brady Mason Angel; Megan Rose Bailey; Alexandra Noel Barnes; Calista Barnes Pierotti; Benjamin Luke Cox; Taylor Anne Facemire; Claire Elizabeth Hamilton; Kirsten Laina Hesson; Timothy Ian Hill; Abigail Grace Johnson; Brooke Allison Johnson; Mary Celeste Jones; Morgan E. Loveday; Peri Anna Martin; Bailey Jane Meadows; Grace Hope Montgomery; Katie Linh Queen; Cade Edward Roberts; Tessa Sue Skinner; Rebecca Ann Sydenstricker; Reece William Thomas; Barbara Madeline Wright.
National Technical Honor Society: Wyatt Dean Evans.
Honors Diploma: Ryan Blake Armstrong; Megan Rose Bailey; Alexandra Noel Barnes; Calista Barnes Pierotti; Elijah Michael Blazer; Alexis Sierra Chapman; Benjamin Luke Cox; Holly Elisabeth Grimmett; Evann Michael Hall; Claire Elizabeth Hamilton; Kirsten Laina Hesson; Timothy Ian Hill; Kristen Jamora; Abigail Grace Johnson; Noah Wesley Johnson; Mary Celeste Jones; Devin Walker Lee; Morgan E. Loveday; Peri Anna Martin; Bailey Jane Meadows; Brianna D. Miller; Grace Hope Montgomery; Katie Linh Queen; Cade Edward Roberts; Tessa Sue Skinner; Grant Ryan Smith; Reece William Thomas; Andrew Christopher Joseph Toler; Emmanuel Valadez; Justin Connor Wilcoxon; Barbara Madeline Wright.
Senior Key Award Winners: Female Athletics – Alexandra Noel Barnes. Academics and Social Studies – Mary Celeste Jones. Academics, Science, English and Music – Morgan E. Loveday. Male Athletics – Cade Edward Roberts. Academics and Mathematics – Grant Ryan Smith.
U.S. Military recognitions: Timothy Ian Hill – US Navy. Lyndsey Paige Nicholas – US Army National Guard. Evan Bryce Rodgers – US Marine Corps. Isaiah Nathaniel Michael Stinson – US Marine Corps.
Superintendent Craig Wright, who also delivered the welcome, then presented diplomas. A performance of the Alma Mater was performed by senior members of the GAHS Madrigals, including Alexia Lee Burnett, Morgan E. Loveday, Daniel Keith Martyn, Sydney Renee’ Miller, Gabriel Lee Terry, Abby Elizabeth VanSickle.
The changing of tassels was led by Chase Alexander Vance, president of the senior class.
The complete list of graduates as provided by GAHS at press time:
Chasity Lea Adams, Brady Mason Angel, Rylan Blake Armstrong, Megan Rose Bailey, William Dean Barcus, Alexandra Noel Barnes, Calista Barnes-Pierotti, Airika Nicole Barr, McKensi Lauren Beaver, Kayla Dawn Black.
Elijah Michael Blazer, Logan Douglas Blouir, Isabella Hope Bonzo, Alexia Lee Burnett, Colton Curtis Caldwell, Zachary A. Canaday, Bronson R. Carter, Alexis Sierra Chapman, Donald Ray Chapman, Trevor M. Chapman.
Keaton R. Christy, Meghianne Marie Colley, Benjamin Luke Cox, Damon Clark Cremeens, Megan Rena Crockett, Christopher Lee Cunningham, II, Joshua Eli Curry, Aaliyah Dale, Jayla Irene Davis, Nathan Davis.
Christopher Steven Michael Dennison, Ryan Michael Donovsky, Gage Michael Dunlap, Elizabeth Rae Eads, Emily Rose Eads, Kaitlyn Marie Easton, Brianna Sue Elliott, Wyatt Dean Evans, Taylor Anne Facemire, Ronny Dakotah Fletcher.
Joseph Fredrick Dudley Gallo, Jeffrey Garnes, Hugh H. Graham, IV, Logan R. Griffith, Holly Elisabeth Grimmett, Evann Michael Hall, Claire Elizabeth Hamilton, Hanah Harris, Breanna Lynn Henry, Kirsten Laina Hesson, Timothy Ian Hill, Kirstin Elizabeth James.
Kristen Jamora, Katilyn Kaye Janes, Abigail Grace Johnson, Brooke Allison Johnson, Carley Ann Johnson, Noah Wesley Johnson, Macy Celeste Jones, Ethan David Lawler, Winter Dayja’ Leach, Devin Walker Lee.
Morgan E. Loveday, Peri Anna Martin, Daniel Keith Martyn, Alexis Nicole Massie, Angie Lynn Mayse, James William McCarley, Mark A. McCoy, Bailey Jane Meadows, Trenton Douglas Meadows, Brianna D. Miller.
Sydney Renee’ Miller, Grace Hope Montgomery, Kathryn Morgan Montgomery, Hayllie Renee’ Mullen, Tristan Micheal Mullett, Trace Neal, Lyndsey Paige Nicholas, Destiny J. Ogden, Darren Michael Owens, Jasmine Perry, Carrissa Dawn Queen, Katie Linh Queen.
Camryn J. Rife, Aryana Daunay Roach, Cade Edward Roberts, Evan Bryce Rodgers, Jaci Gail Rodgers, Cole B. Rose, Alexis B. Russell, Autumn Marie Saunders, Luke Saunders, Karsyn Nicole Shamblin.
Carlin Short, Tessa Sue Skinner, Grant Ryan Smith, Prestley Scott Snodgrass, Isaiah Nathaniel Michael Stinson, Rebecca Ann Sydenstricker, Hannah Nichole Tate, Gabriel Lee Terry, Reece William Thomas, Andrew Christopher Joseph Toler.
Joshua Ian Trout, Emmanuel Valadez, Christopher Dominique Valentine, Chase Alexander Vance, Madison Marie Vance, Abby Elizabeth VanSickle, Corbin Michael Walker, Justin Connor Wilcoxon, William Blake Woods, Barbara Madeline Wright.
Information for this story provided by Gallia Academy High School and photos provided to the Tribune by Bartee Photography.
To view the official commencement ceremony by filmmaker Mike Thompson, go to YouTube or click on the following link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhWSUg8LPpA&t=1162s
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Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.