NEWBERRY - During his address to the Newberry High School class of 2020, Valedictorian Ethan Hawkins said this year has had unprecedented events, but they made it to graduation.
During their graduation ceremony, held on the football field, Hawkins thanked his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for blessing him with the opportunity, as well has his parents for pushing him.
When addressing his classmates, he said they have been faced with the effects of COVID-19, missing the part of their senior year deemed by others to be the most fun.
“We have not let this pandemic soil our spirit, instead we have gathered here today to celebrate the end of our high school career,” Hawkins said. “Classmates, I ask you to look around today, this moment will be remembered in the history books. Our children will learn how the class of 2020 overcame adversity, they will learn how we stayed true to ourselves despite the pressure to panic.”
Hawkins spoke of Corinthians 4,6-7, which states that anxiety is fruitless, and he believes they have shown that action is a far better course. He said they have refused to be contained by their situation, defining it for themselves, instead of letting others define it for them.
“This situation has only strengthened our bond, tightened our awareness of it and allowing us to visualize exactly what it is that brings us all together. We are the class of 2020, we will always be graduates of Newberry High School, a fact that will never change,” he said.
Hawkins added that they were about to begin the rest of their lives and they were going to have to work hard to succeed. Hawkins spoke of Colin Powell when he said, “we should surround ourselves with people who take their work seriously, but not themselves, those who work hard and play hard.”
“I could not agree more,” Hawkins said. “Let us commit to do everything at 100 percent and you will be able to change the world, you will always do better. We will create a path for our future that always leads up, we will not be okay with being okay. We will be the best, by doing so we will continue to challenge and push ourselves to success and will stop at nothing until we fulfill our goals.”
Hawkins added that they should maintain this mindset going forward and never forget where they came from.
“We are the class of 2020, and we are here to stay. We will never back down from adversity, no matter what, that is what I’m the most proud of,” he said.
Anaiah Neal said that graduation was both a celebration of what they have all accomplished and a challenge for them to strive for even greater heights during her Salutatorian Address.
“Today is a day you should be proud of yourself, graduating from high school is not easy, it has been an ongoing roller coaster ride these past 12 years. It seems like one day you are 17 and you are planning for something and then quietly, without you really ever noticing, someday is today,” she said. “Then someday is yesterday.”
Neal said she can still remember her first day of kindergarten, the drama at Newberry Middle School and the ridiculous arguments at the lunch table over the last four years.
“I have one word for all the things I just mentioned, growth,” Neal said. “I am so thankful to have grown up with all of you lovely ladies and gentlemen. I honestly cannot wait to see everyone get what they want in life. If no one has told you up until this point, I will — I believe in you. This may be the last time I ever see or talk to you, but I still want you to do great.”
Neal spoke of a classmate they lost their junior year, Davonta Ruff.
“He was a great friend, a hilarious classmate and a loving family member. This is a time you should be remembering how beautiful his life was and how lit he would want us to be right now, because we did it,” Neal said.
Neal spoke of Maya Angelo who once said, “we may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated.”
“We are currently in a pandemic that has impacted our daily lives, I am truly grateful to be giving this speech right now. I am not grateful for the way my people are being treated, it has been 157 years since the end of slavery and my fellow African-Americans and I still cannot breath. I am hoping you all stay safe, but be seen and heard during these troubled times,” Neal said.
Neal ended by saying she hopes all her classmates always have love and dedication in their hearts, no matter what they are going on to do.