THOMASVILLE — Through speeches recorded and broadcast online, the Thomasville High School class of 2020 ended its high school years Friday night — receiving diplomas in a drive-through fashion.

Seniors, some of them in caps and gowns and nearly all in vehicles festooned for the occasion, drove up to the school after the names of each graduate were read and were directed to one of three lanes where their diplomas were waiting to be handed to them. 

The COVID-19 pandemic altered Thomasville High’s usual graduation plans, and the class salutatorian and valedictorian made note of that in their speeches.

“There is a Japanese proverb that says fall down seven times, and get up eight,” said salutatorian Kaitlyn Kasper. “A some point in our lives, we will face trials. What is more important than the difficulties we face is how we face them. 

“This pandemic is most definitely a trial for everyone. It has touched everyone’s lives.”

Valedictorian Braxton Sizemore pointed out how the pandemic has truncated the class’ senior year.

“Our worlds have been upended and our four years at Thomasville High School have been cut short,” he said. “We cannot make up for last time. We can, however, realize and respect the gravity of this graduation.”

Thomasville City Schools Superintendent Ben Wiggins delivered his hope that the graduating class reflects on the values of “respect, perseverance and integrity that you have acquired.”

THS Principal Dr. Shannon Norfleet commended the class of 2020’s top two graduates.

“Both of these speakers exemplify what is good about the youth of today and show why we should all be optimistic about tomorrow,” he said.

Kasper thanked God for giving her ”wonderful parents and teachers and countless opportunities to display the talents He gave me.” She also said this time has taught the importance of perseverance and patience.

"Things in this world will not always turn out the way we want them to," she said. “With a little hope, we can do it. We don’t have to have the same source of hope, but we need to be willing to look for it. We can’t persevere if we have no hope for the future. Whatever makes you hopeful, no matter how small it is, cling to it. When we face life’s troubles, that small hope will help us persevere and get through whatever problems we face.

“I know I’m guilty of being impatient,” Kasper added. "It’s even harder to be patient through tough times. We can learn perseverance by learning to be patient. It takes time to learn true patience. How we react to failures and other trials shows more about our character than our failures. No matter what you want to do with your life, you are capable of doing it, despite the hardships, if you learn patience and perseverance.”

Sizemore acknowledged that often valedictory addresses describe graduating classes as humanity’s future. 

“Today I would like to suggest to you an even greater purpose,” he said. “Instead of saying we are the future, let’s say we will be history. Our lives have become entangled with this moment in history. We need to embrace the magnitude and repercussions of that. 

“Billions of human beings after us will learn about our lives, the tragedy that shaped our senior year,” Sizemore continued. “We will leave our mark on history in how we, the future, handled this predicament. I believe it is our job to move forward with compassion, empathy, and selflessness.” 

Sizemore offered thanks to health care workers.

“We will never be able to repay you for your bravery and leadership, for the hope for which you have provided us,” he said.

Sizemore paid homage to the class’ togetherness, even in a time when they were kept apart by the pandemic. 

“We would be nothing without each other, without companionship, camaraderie, and unity,” he said. "I have every confidence we will be the next generation of leaders in our country and our world. I cannot wait for the world to see just how strong we are.”

Editor Pat Donahue can be reached at (229) 226-2400 ext. 1806.

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