Highlands School honors Class of 2020 at outdoor graduation

Highlands School held an outdoor graduation ceremony on Saturday celebrating the Class of 2020 after a chaotic year cut short due to COVID-19.

Highlands School outdoor graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020.

Graduates and their families were spread out on the end of the track to maintain social distance, with students giving Principal Brian Jetter an elbow bump after receiving their diplomas.

Graduate Reid Ingate elbow bumps Highlands Principal Brian Jetter after receiving his diploma.

Vice Principal Sarah Holbrooks said the ceremony turned out beautiful.

Highlands Graduates throw their caps in the air at the end of the Class of 2020 outdoor graduation ceremony on Saturday.

“It was a special time for our seniors and their families,” said Holbrooks. “The way everything flowed was even better than we had pictured it. It was not a traditional Highlands graduation, but this was truly a special and unforgettable event. It was an emotional time for many, as we did not know if it would end up happening or not.”

Salutatorian Morgan Olvera addresses those in attendance at Saturday’s outdoor graduation ceremony.

Salutatorian Morgan Olvera welcomed those in attendance and thanked Highlands School staff, students, and parents for their efforts throughout the year.

“COVID-19 definitely made my senior year a bit more difficult with my in-person classes and just overall productivity,” said Olvera regarding an unpredictable senior year. “The canceling of the end of year senior activities was hard to deal with at first, but we later learned it was the best option during these circumstances. I’m glad that later on in the year we got to experience the final milestone of high school, graduation!”

Cindy Reed delivered the Commencement Address to the Class of 2020.

The Commencement Address was delivered by First Grade Assistant Teacher Cindy Reed who encouraged graduates to follow their dreams, achieve their goals, and do something that makes them happy.

“Life will be tough and ever-stressful, but you will survive, and the learning process will make you smarter and stronger,” said Reed.

Co-Valedictorian Camren Dalton delivers one of two Farewell Addresses at Saturday’s outdoor ceremony.

After seniors received their diplomas, Co-Valedictorians Camren Dalton and Sayla Roman delivered the Farewell Addresses.

Roman said remote learning had its challenges and is glad to be moving onto the next step in life.

“I am so happy to finally be done with high school, it’s taken far too long,” said Roman. “It almost felt like we had already graduated earlier because classes ended in May, but it was nice to finally have the closure of graduation to end high school.”

Co-Valedictorian Sayla Roman delivers a Farewell Address to those attending the outdoor graduation ceremony.

Roman added it was nice having an outdoor ceremony.

“I love that we had an outdoor ceremony,” she said. “I consider it a ‘perk’ of COVID if you will and even though it was hot, I enjoyed having the ceremony outdoors. The location also helped with keeping the distance.”

Highlands graduates from left are Kedra McCall, Ryan Talbert, and Emma Weller getting ready before the ceremony.

Graduate Kedra McCall said the outdoor ceremony went well and she’s excited for the future.

“It’s a weird feeling to be a graduate, but awesome to know we’re all moving onto a new chapter with the whole world laying at our feet in front of us,” said McCall. “I’m very excited for college, while nervous at the same time. I’m excited for so many new things and people.”

Highlands Graduates and Junior Marshals line up before walking out for the Class of 2020 graduation ceremony.

McCall added that students wouldn’t have made it to graduation without a strong support system.

“Thank you to all of Highlands who made our graduation possible, both by educating and motivating us, and being persistent throughout all of the unknown during COVID,” she said.

Highlands Seniors walk to their seats to begin the Class of 2020 graduation ceremony.

Holbrooks said she was grateful Highlands could host a ceremony for seniors who have all worked hard to reach this milestone.

“We are beyond proud of this special group of seniors,” she said. “They lifted each other up during times of disappointment during their senior year, as well as personal tragedies. They stuck together and showed their maturity throughout these difficult times. We look forward to seeing them spread their wings and to hear of all the magnificent goals that they will accomplish. We hope they always remember their time as Highlands School and take the Highlander Pride motto whenever they go. Congrats, Class of 2020!”

Highlands graduates took a moment during the ceremony to present loved ones with flowers. Pictured above is Highlands Graduate Javier Figueroa.

From left are Co-Valedictorian Sayla Roman, Salutatorian Morgan Olvera, and Co-Valedictorian Camren Dalton after the ceremony.

From left are Highlands graduates Dillon Schmidt, Taj Roman, Patrick Woods, Pablo Jimenez, and Carlos Gomez.

From left are Highlands graduates Morgan Olvera, Sohpia Nguyen, Marilyn Valerio, Sayla Roman, Emma Weller, Camren Dalton, and Lilly Deal.

Some of the Junior Marshals from left are Ethan Tate, Rebekah Wiggins, Brooklynn Houston, and Jordan Carrier.

From left are Highlands graduates Tien Guyen, Michael Herbert, and Reid Ingate before the ceremony.

From left are Highlands graduates Pablo Jimenez, Bill Miller, Dillon Schmidt, Junior Marshal Ethan Tate, and Patrick Woods.

From left are Highlands graduates Marilyn Valerio, Isaiah Tucci-Caselli, and Brianna Norris who are all attending East Carolina University in the fall.

Highlands Principal Brian Jetter delivers the Principal’s Remarks at the graduation ceremony.

Randy Lucas delivered the Invocation and Benediction at the ceremony.

  • Masks were worn and social distancing guidelines were maintained before and after all photos were taken.

Pictured at the top of the article is Highlands Graduate Sophia Nguyen hugging family during a long-time tradition of presenting parents with flowers during graduation.

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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After Ceremony

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