WORTON — Members of Kent County High School’s graduating Class of 2021 celebrated their accomplishment in Trojan Stadium Friday morning, June 4.
Joining them were select family members and friends, faculty and the Board of Education and other public officials to celebrate the hard work and accomplishments of the 143 graduating seniors.
Graduation was the first time in more than a year that the entire senior class was all together, said Kent County Public Schools Supervisor of Student Services and Secondary Education Tracey Williams, herself a former KCHS principal.
“Attendance with a gathering of this size is kind of a big deal for us now, considering seven months ago when we returned to remote learning, we didn’t know if this would even be possible,” she said.
“Graduation is not the end; it’s the beginning,” former Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch is quoted on the back of the graduation program.
Graduation is certainly only the beginning for those now-graduates of KCHS, 56% of whom will be going into higher education, 24% of whom will be heading into the workforce and 10% of whom will be enlisting in the military.
“This class is unique not because of what they accomplished, because of how they accomplished it,” Williams said.
Their accomplishments, however, should not be understated, with students taking a total of 203 Advanced Placement courses and 54 dual-enrollment courses at either Chesapeake or Washington College.
Fifty-eight seniors earned the status of Maryland Scholar from the Maryland Business Roundtable, earning a cumulative grade point average 3.0 or higher, at least two world language credits, took an AP science course and completed at least algebra II.
Over $3.83 million in scholarships have been awarded to the Class of 2021.
These accomplishments were made despite the uncertainty and new forms of learning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As we walked out of school in the middle of our junior year, we had no way of knowing what would happen next,” said Rachel Jones, KCHS Student Government Association president and the student member of the Board of Education. “Students were excited for a two-week vacation. It turned into months of separation from our separation from our teachers and friends.
“We were forced to adapt to numerous circumstances throughout our senior year, but no matter what challenges we faced, we all came together for each other and we have an amazing community, faculty, and group of supporters,” she said.
Senior Class President Olivia Jones thanked faculty and staff for helping students “navigate what we thought the loss of our senior year would be, to the acceptance of what it became.”
In her speech, Olivia Jones talked about the hardships the Class of 2021 faced this year, and how seniors overcame the adversity they faced, persevering to be able to walk across the graduation stage.
“Now I may be biased, but I don’t think just any class can turn things around the way we did and stay resilient,” Olivia Jones said, recalling all of the makeshift and adapted events that were held over the year.
Salutatorian Robert Bourne’s speech focused on procrastination, hoping attendees “realize that it may be okay to procrastinate an assignment, but to delay the future is to swim against the current of change.”
“Continued procrastination delays the inevitable, and furthers the severity,” he said, talking about the need for seizing opportunities, prosper, and stop procrastinating the future.
Valedictorian Marlee Berghaus’ speech recognized her fellow classmates, their accomplishments and their futures as scientists, artists, healthcare workers, engineers, entrepreneurs and bosses and servicemen and women.
“While the future is uncertain, the past has taught us great lessons, both in and outside of the classroom, and shaped each of us into the people we are today,” she said. “Let this present moment be a gift of our accomplishments.
“Together, we are this world’s future. While each of our paths and life may be different, and take us in different directions, I know our futures are bright,” Berghaus said.
KCHS teachers Brett King and Sarah McCown were nominated to address the graduates.
“It’s no small feat to be on this stage receiving diplomas, accolades, and awards in the year 2021, with one foot on the edge of an awful pandemic, and the other on the edge of an exciting future,” McCown said.
“Teaching this particular graduating class and watching you grow ... has been an absolute joy,” she said.
While McCown’s speech focused on students’ last four years in her classrooms and provided advice for the future, King’s outlined his own journey as a student who aspired to being an educator but did not have the grades to do it right out of high school.
“It took me 16 years to reach that eighth-grade goal, which at the time was over half my life,” King said.
“I don’t expect you to take any advice from an adult-ish type person at this point in your life, but I will let you eavesdrop on what a 37-year-old Mr. King would tell 18-year-old Brett, who also wouldn’t listen to me: You’re going to make mistakes, just don’t make them twice. Appreciate your family and anyone else who would love you enough to want the best for you. Set goals and work to reach them — I said work, don’t wait for them to magically happen,” he said.
After the speeches, the certification and confirmation of diplomas, and all of the students walked across the stage, seniors participated in the ceremonial turning of the rings and moving of their tassels before throwing their mortarboards in the air in celebration, having officially graduated from KCHS.
“I hope you look back on your time and are proud of where you come from,” Williams said. “Remember: it’s always a good day to wear the blue and gold, and it’s always a good day to be a Trojan.”