DARLINGTON, S.C. (WBTW) — Students walked the stage at several Darlington County high schools Friday morning.
Students and their families filled the stadium at Darlington High School. Many took the chance to reflect on how difficult the last year was and look to the future.
“The pandemic does not define us or our experiences, it just made us stronger for the next chapter in our lives,” salutatorian Laine Ward said. “We are lucky that despite a year full of changes and challenges, we are actually graduating in person here today.”
Darlington, Hartsville, Lamar and Mayo high schools all held ceremonies.
“COVID-19 gave us a new reality and changed our lives in many ways,” valedictorian McKayla Miller said. “But instead of letting it bring us down, each of us has been able to persevere and overcome the challenges this pandemic has brought us.”
Many recognized the unprecedented times in which they completed their education.
“When the world halted in 2020, we all believed it would be only that class that would face a crazy senior year,” Principal Cortney Gehrke said. “And yet, 2020 turned into 2021, and you all lost not just the end of your junior year, but your senior year as well.”
Gehrke urged the young adults to do their part to make the world a better place. Ten students earned associates degrees in addition to their high school diplomas.
One student earned his diploma and another special honor. Jacobie Bell received the Heart of the Falcon award. It is presented to students who have a strong impact on their peers and teachers. Bell said he was honored to be recognized.
“I am beyond proud. A lot of times, it feels like your accomplishments can go unnoticed, then God does something like this to remind you he hasn’t forgotten about you,” Bell said. “I believe a lot of times we look for change when we can be the change.”
Bell plans to study music education and hopes to return to Darlington High as a faculty member someday.