In the most unconventional year in West Ashley High’s history, 338 seniors graduate in memorable fashion

from Staff Reports

It started like any other year at West Ashley High School. Planning for the student’s return in July. Schedule Pick-up in August. Semester One went by like a blur. Christmas Break came before the students and teachers knew it. And then, just as Semester Two was getting underway, the COVID-19 pandemic began.

 Life changed in an instant for everyone the world over. We all had to get used to a “new normal” and teachers and administrators had to figure out what that meant at the school level and how to best serve their students from a distance.

 The group who was impacted the most through all of this was the Senior Class of 2020. No prom. No Senior Skip Day. Sports seasons and the scouting opportunities tied to them were gone in a flash.

 “We wish that you could have experienced all of the lasts — the last inning, the last lap, the last goal, the last high-fives, the last performance, the last dance,” said WAHS Principal Ryan Cumback. “It was not fair. It was not ideal. I do not know how to make up for the loss, but what I do know is how important it is to find the good in even the darkest of times. I have always appreciated the words of Leonard Cohen in his song “Anthem”:

Ring the bells (ring the bells) that still can ring/
Forget your perfect offering/
There is a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)/
That’s how the light gets in

“There is light. You all have shown us that,” said Cumback.

This year 338 seniors are graduating, many of which have been accepted to college, enlisted in the military, or are going straight into the workforce. Some will stay in the area and attend College of Charleston, some will travel upstate and attend Clemson University, and some will travel as far as Washington, DC and attend Georgetown University.

It was beginning to look like all of the fun, all of the lifetime memories made during a senior year were lost forever. Then things started to turn around.

The district gave the school permission to hold a day to celebrate the seniors and collect items they had to return like Chromebooks and textbooks. The senior advisors and Cumback went to work coming up with how the day would go and recruited Kona Ice, Zaxby’s, Krispy Kreme, Party City, and a DJ to help make the event one to remember to celebrate the seniors. A group of parents and many of the student’s teachers were there to help with the event and cheer on the Class of 2020. A new tradition was started where families could hang banners on the Bus Loop fence to highlight their graduate.

While planning for this event, the team was compiling information (senior pictures, distinctions, special awards) for the Class of 2020’s virtual ceremony with the help of the district office. A virtual ceremony for each high school in CCSD will be posted at 7 p.m. on Monday, June 8 to each school’s website and to CCSD’s webpage.

“All along the district promised to let schools hold an in-person ceremony for their students. Yet parents and seniors alike began to get frustrated and concerned that their dream of watching their child walk across the stage and get his or her diploma would never come true. But the district fulfilled its promise and a date was set for an in-person graduation.

“While this may not be the ceremony we imagined, our accomplishment is not any less grand,” said WAHS Class of 2020 valedictorian Matthew Krejci. “If anything, it is that much more stirring. Despite every hurdle and roadblock, we survived. We have made our way up, grade-by-grade, to the summit of a towering peak, now with a clear view of the many roads ahead and the even greater peaks yet to be conquered. I know that if we keep our feet on the ground and eyes to the sky, each and every one of us has the ability to achieve greatness.”

WAHS will host two ceremonies in Wildcat Stadium on Saturday, June 13. One at 8 a.m. and the other at 7 p.m.

“We are so excited to highlight the West Ashley High School Class of 2020 the way they deserve,” said Cumback. “Getting to hold an in-person ceremony is one of those rites of passage that all seniors need to go through as they prepare to take that next step. We are so proud of the Class of 2020 and wish them the best with whatever path they choose.”

The whole experience can be summed up by the words of the class’s valedictorian. “I would urge everyone to not pursue success at the expense of happiness,” said Krejci. “Of course any road leading to success has sharp turns and obstacles, but it is up to us to decide whether the destination is worth the sacrifice. We should find something to pursue, but we should not let it consume us. We should be familiar with sleepless nights spent working towards a better future, but we shouldn’t neglect nights spent with friends. We should be efficient with our time, but we should not be afraid to sit back every once in a while to reflect on what we have accomplished, experienced, and what we may become.”

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