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Hundreds of RSS high school seniors graduate with in-person ceremonies

By Natalie Anderson and Carl Blankenship
news@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Marked by more than a year of resilience during a global pandemic, Salisbury High School Principal Marvin Moore deemed the class of 2021 the “in spite of” class during Saturday’s graduation ceremony.

“Thank you for modeling here what we should do as adults ’cause you guys have gone through much more in your 18 or 17 years than a lot of us have gone through in 48-50 years. Thank you for what you’ve done,” Moore said.

The district’s six traditional high schools — Salisbury High, Jesse C. Carson High, East Rowan High, West Rowan High, North Rowan High and South Rowan High — celebrated their 2021 graduates with in-person ceremonies at their respective football stadiums at 8 a.m. Saturday. The Early College and Henderson Independent will hold their ceremonies at alternate locations and dates.

“Graduating high school is such an essential life accomplishment and should be celebrated by friends, family and our community. I am extremely proud of our students for their hard work and effort in fulfilling this accomplishment,” said Dr. Tony Watlington, superintendent of Rowan-Salisbury Schools. “I am also proud of our families, teachers and administrators who have supported students in this monumental undertaking. A top priority of RSS is to ensure high school diplomas are meaningful and aligned with the skills and knowledge students need to be enrolled, employed or enlisted. In today’s world, it is critical that all of our students are prepared to be competitive for whatever life goals they have in the future.”

A common theme couldn’t be ignored across Saturday’s ceremonies. During her address, Salisbury High co-valedictorian Meredith Burton praised her approximately 205 fellow classmates for navigating lost opportunities throughout the pandemic as well as perseverance coming out on the other side.

“We were finally able to stand in the front of the student section as sports fans, even in 30-degree weather,” she said. “And just this past Saturday, we were able to enjoy our senior prom, even in 80-degree weather.”

Co-valedictorian Clara Brown spoke of the “complicated reality of the present,” which includes the dark reality of the pandemic: lost lives, job losses, social isolation, health disparities, lost opportunities for students and a divided nation. Brown also touched on a summer of confronting racial equity issues following the death of George Floyd, acknowledging “the lives of Black citizens lost at the hands of police.”

“Yet here we are. Our present is this moment. This moment is scary and beautiful and sad and exciting,” Brown said. “As we go our separate ways, do not always look at the present through innocent eyes. Do not let the unequal treatment of your peers go unnoticed or unchallenged. Take the beauty and tragedy of our world to learn and change, and finally, to achieve a brighter future.”

Carson High’s Valedictorian Kayla Young spoke to her more than 300 fellow classmates about their accomplishments during the past year, from a women’s state basketball championship to going to school during a pandemic.
“This has certainly been a very long year and we didn’t know if we would have this,” said Carson High School Principal Benjamin Crawford. “Of course there’s just the relief of finishing a year, but this one feels extra special.”

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