As many people know -- and maybe some don't -- I am a fan of old television shows. I only mention this fact because I think the 2020 graduation ceremony at Vinton County High School (VCHS) was well done and the students will have their memories. In the final scene of the last “Wonder Years” show, which aired on ABC, Kevin Arnold noted, “One day you're in diapers and the next day you are gone. The memories of childhood stay with you forever. Now, after all these years, I look back with wonder.”

 I believe it was on this theme that Superintendent Rick Brooks, Principal JJ Milliken, Assistant Principal Josh Kirkpatrick, and the entire staff and board of education members were working toward. They went into overdrive to make the seniors’ last day special as they closed this chapter of their lives. The 2020 class is leaving high school with the coronavirus COVID-19 crisis changing everything in the country and world -- but it did not stop a special graduation ceremony from being held on Sunday afternoon, May 17.

In her speech, Valedictorian Rylee Fee reflected this line of thinking. While she is going off to the big city (Chicago in this case) to fulfill her dreams, Fee told her classmates she will never forget the place that made her who she is today. It is the core values, Fee added, that develop the kind of person you grow into while on the teenage track.
While the big cities have much to offer, small areas often offer that special touch. While Vinton County may be a small rural county, the people there are quite creative. Local people also have been rather resourceful when solving problems -- especially when there is a big community need involved. There are also some talented artisans in the county.

I think these core county values, along with strong family ties, will help the 2020 class members achieve his or her goals -- whether they stay in the area or not. I hope the Class of 2020 members feel this way about their graduation ceremony and senior year. While nothing can replace losing “the lasts” such as the prom, spring play, and spring sports or times with relatives, there were also some firsts they can remember.

No other VCHS class can say they had a graduation ceremony that could be accessed live, worldwide in real-time. Yes, the Class of 2020 ceremony used the real power of the Internet and Total Media station WKOV 96.7 FM. No doubt it was done under necessity, but often, necessity is the mother of intention and sometimes change. I have heard some people like the new additions, such as the driving event and some would like to see them blended into future graduation ceremonies.

I think the students enjoyed the parade of cars, being videoed and accompanying honking horns. Conversely, the traditional part of graduation was kept alive with students getting a diploma handed to them, the student speeches being given, and yes, the feeling of getting it done.

The high school experience is about more than the graduation ceremony. The Class of 2020 has made some great memories and that is what they will hold on to and remember. To this class, do not remember what you lost, but what you had.