Loved ones of E. C. Glass High School’s 2022 graduates flocked to Lynchburg City Stadium on a bright, clear Sunday to celebrate their students’ accomplishments.
Boisterous cheering and applause rang out from the audience on the bleachers as graduates marched down a grassy aisle in full regalia to receive their diplomas and move on to college, the military or the workforce, marking the end of one era and the beginning of a new.
E. C. Glass’s graduating class of 307 students gathered for commencement at 8:30 a.m.
In her address to the senior students of her high school, Principal Rose Flaugher encouraged students to always keep focused on the “why,” on their purpose and ultimate goal, when they encounter challenges in life and feel like giving up. It is a strategy she uses herself, she said, and one she hoped to instill in the graduates.
“There certainly were times this year when I had to put that strategy to good use, and what I always came back to was you,” Flaugher said. “My ‘why’ is seated in the over 300 chairs in front of me.”
Flaugher praised the graduates for their excellence in both academics and extracurricular activities, and for their adaptability and resilience through what was an unconventional last half of their high school careers. About 65 students graduated this year with a 4.0 grade point average or higher, Flaugher said. She also praised E. C. Glass high schools’ teachers and staff for their above-and-beyond support and flexibility and thanked students’ families and support systems.
“Today is the reason why,” Flaugher said to the graduates. “Today, you know why your teachers pushed you so hard. You know why your school counselors, coaches, advisors, family members and friends never gave up on you. Today is why you stayed up late finishing projects, took on extra courses and studied for tests. Today is the reason you stayed after school and worked with your teachers. Today is the reason you may have fallen down during the last couple of years, but you picked yourself up, and you are here today because you did it.”
Student speakers acknowledged the challenges they faced beginning their sophomore year of high school: a global pandemic threw traditional schooling and social life out the window for some time. Changes happened almost daily; virtual or hybrid schooling was implemented before returning to in-person learning; practicing social distancing and experiencing a lack of sporting events or proms for a while altered the teens’ high school experience as well. However, the student speakers focused on the lessons they learned through the hurdles, and how they overcame them, looking ahead to a bright future even in the midst of lingering uncertainties.
“Be kind to one another. Life’s too short and precious for hate. Decide for yourself what success and happiness means,” said the first student speaker, Jake Pabis.
He offered his fellow graduates a couple other bits of advice, as well: “Use semicolons in any future writing; they make you look smarter than you really are,” he said, to laughter. “Hold on tight to your dreams, and pressure Hollywood and other large media firms to feature functional and feasible medieval armor in their movies and TV shows.”
Jeffrey Wooters celebrated the culmination of “four very long years of high school.”
“Because of COVID-19, we lost many of the things that we previously took for granted,” Wooters said. “And despite everything we lost, everything we’ve sacrificed to keep each other safe, we still managed to come out ahead. We learned to be more conscious of what we have, and how little we control when we lose it. We’ve learned to take each day at a time, to go with the flow, and to have serenity over the things we cannot change. We’ve learned to be studious and to excel, even when all the circumstances are stacked against us.”
Finally, Ny’asia Whirley shared remarks in memory of London Thompson, her friend and classmate who would have graduated with the Class of 2022 had she not lost her life before the celebratory day.
“She was filled with joy, always smiling,” Whirley said of Thompson. “She was loyal, thoughtful, caring, and brought light to any room she entered. She was the type of person you could always count on, and she could always make you laugh.”
The kind who put her family and friends first, according to Whirley, she said a person like Thompson deserved to be celebrated.
“I choose to celebrate her memory on this day when we have so much to celebrate,” Whirley said.
During the distribution of diplomas, Thompson’s name was read along with her classmates, and the audience and class paused a moment for the approximate amount of time she would have walked the stage.
Flaugher told students not to let this be their only graduation day.
“Continue to seek out knowledge. Keep asking questions. Work to find your ‘why’ when faced with challenges. Recognize that by making it through the last two and a half years, you are ready for the world,” she said. “You are tenacious, flexible, and ready to lead. All of us here love you.”
Photos: E.C. Glass Class of 2022 celebrated at City Stadium
Roughly six months before students will enter the building for the first time, the Campbell County Board of Supervisors toured the under-construction Rustburg Middle School this past week, getting a sneak peek at the brand-new building.