BERRYVILLE — In Clarke County High School’s Wilbur M. Feltner Stadium on Thursday evening, 182 seniors received their diplomas.
Following tradition, the graduates walked onto the football field to the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” underneath a long archway of shepherd’s crooks. Each senior from the Class of 2019 got to choose two people to hold the crooks. Cheers and the sound of ringing cowbells came from family members and friends gathered in the stands for the occasion.
Storm clouds hovered over the ceremony, with raindrops falling intermittently during the presentation of the diplomas.
Principal Dana Waring told the graduates to be bold enough to use their voices and strong enough to live the lives they’ve always wanted.
“Tonight we celebrate the accomplishments of these fine young men and women,” Waring said. “Graduates, I encourage you to take this moment to look around at those in the stands that have supported you through the years and will continue to be your strength.”
Clarke County Public Schools Superintendent Chuck Bishop shared with the crowd that graduation is a time to reflect on yesterday, appreciate today and anticipate tomorrow.
“As you leave yesterday and today behind, tomorrow you’re propelled into the unknown. You do so not as naive children but rather as young adults moving forward with confidence and lessons learned.”
Life is like a book, Bishop said he’s heard, and now it’s time for the graduates to write their next chapter.
Valedictorian Julija Martin told her classmates, “In a time of lasts, it’s important to look at our firsts, too.”
There’s the first time students run late to class, the first time they get their driving permit. Another possible first, she joked, is leaving their car running in the school parking lot for the entire day.
Other unforgettable firsts might include seeing a school talent show or spring musical.
“It seemed impossible that little, old Clarke County could hold so much talent, and it seems impossible that our school could hold so much athletic talent, too,” Martin said.
She thanked family members and teachers for helping the graduates make it to their big day.
“Nothing extraordinary was achieved by a single person, and our biggest cheerleaders are usually our family,” she said.
Martin encouraged her classmates to recapture and hold onto the feeling they had in their first year of high school, that “wide-eyed wonder and excitement” they may have lost.
“We live in a world that dampens our spirits, whether intentionally or unintentionally, and the strongest act of rebellion we have is to hold onto that childlike love for the world that we live in,” Martin said.
Salutatorian Annalee Wisecarver admitted that when she sat down to write her speech, she had no idea what she was doing, a similar feeling she had throughout her high school experience.
“But today isn’t for me or for you. It’s for us. The Class of 2019,” Wisecarver said.
She said graduation is about those who helped support the graduates. For her, this includes the Starbucks barista who served her at 7 a.m. on tough days on her way to Mt. Vista Governor’s School.
Clarke’s Class of 2019 will be remembered for the girls’ cross country team that won states and was led by four seniors. It also will be remembered for various school clubs and organizations performing well at the state level.
And there are those little victories that students will cherish on their own, Wisecarver said, such as passing SOL tests, going viral while featuring a teacher on a video on TikTok, making it to the first class of the day on time or somehow going the entire year without purchasing a parking pass.
“In the end, it’s important to celebrate these little victories, but we also need to remember the gigantic victory we’re celebrating today, graduation,” Wisecarver said.
Class President Anna Davidson took a selfie with the rest of her class from the stage before she announced the class gift, which was a donation to the trophy case.