ASHVILLE — The Teays Valley High School graduating Class of 2020 may not have gotten the send off they wanted, but the district put together something a little more personal.

Like many of the other districts around the county, students, instead of celebrating in a group, got a personal graduation with a small group of family in order to follow guidelines from health care officials and orders to gather in groups of no more than 10 people. Staff waited near their cars on the North Side of the building to congratulate the graduates as they drove by on their way out following recieving their diploma.

With staff donning masks, students who wore their caps and gowns received their diploma, one by one, from family members, something that Principal John Keel said is different than the traditional graduation festivities.

“What we’ve done recently is have the graduate designate a teacher that had an impact on them to give them their diploma,” Keel mentioned. “With us having to do something different, we thought it would make it more personal to allow a family member to do that.”

Keel added that they had to think outside the box due to the expectations of the health department and made it safe as possible for students.

“We wanted to make sure that we provided an atmosphere that was as personal as it could be for our families,” he said. “As a result, we came up with this plan and I think one of the things we felt was important to happen was that our families would actually present the diploma to the student.”

Keel mentioned that this year’s class has risen to the challenge that has been put before them and overcome so much in the last year.

“Their character and compassion have prevailed in situations that have not been the norm,” he stated. “I think we’ve all learned a lot about ourselves in this process, not only the students, but the educators and the staff too. I’ve been impressed with (the students’) ability to respond to things in the right way and their ability to communicate with us. I think they’ve had to grow up through some tough things, but they’ve risen to the occasion.”

Teays Valley Class of 2020 graduate Mallory Spangler said she was upset at not getting to spend the last part of her senior year with her classmates, but said the school is doing what it can to make the end of their year great.

“I truly wish we could all be together one last time, but I really appreciate everything that the school is doing for us,” she added. ”Teays Valley is doing everything possible to make our senior year and graduation memorable. Even though the circumstances are not what we could have ever imagined, our class and community has come together and made the best of what we have been given. We all have learned to focus on being in the moment and never to take anything for granted.”

Spangler said it’s been upsetting to have their lasts and not be able to take them in.

“It is saddening knowing we will never receive the closure that we have imagined for our whole lives, but honestly, we, as a school and community, have made the best out of what we have been put through,” she commented. “Everyone has done everything they possibly could to make the ending to our senior year a memorable one and I could never be more thankful.”

Keel said it’s always a special day to see a class of graduates take their final steps and become alumni.

“It’s hard to put into words what something like that is to experience,” he added. “You look back at the last four years and you had a chance to be a part of the process and you can see the growth of the students. They’re all different and have different skills, opportunities and challenges, but one thing holds true is that when they leave here, they’re Teays Valley graduates. That’s a tremendous thing that takes a lot of work for the student, their family, school personnel and the community. We’re really impressed and really excited for these kids.”

Keel said in the end, the students have won out.

“I believe, through all of this, their character and passion prevailed, not only individually, but I have seen them do great things collectively,” he concluded. “I saw them embrace what community means and I think that’s what it’s all about.”

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