WHITLEY COUNTY - Whitley County High School posted its 57th annual commencement ceremony on the school’s Facebook page Saturday.

The virtual graduation came as a result of senior students working along with school administration following social distancing orders set in place by the state in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Whitley County Principal Dr. Bob Lawson told the Times-Tribune that it took nearly 18 hours of filming and editing to make Whitley County’s virtual graduation possible. Senior students were contacted by the school to set up an appointment for students and a select number of family members to come to the school to be filmed walking across a stage and receiving their diplomas.

Whitley County also filmed Whitley County’s senior class president Craig Hensley presenting his speech to his fellow graduates.

“While I am disappointed that we cannot gather in person for this momentous occasion, my pride in our class is not diminished in the slightest,” said Hensley. “After all, life is rarely predictable. I find that throughout our lives we are always thrown curveballs, and it’s how we deal with those curveballs that define who we are,” he continued. “The circumstances we now find ourselves in are challenging, but we will prevail. Yes, this graduation differs from its predecessors, but the nature of the ceremony does not alter the accomplishments of the celebrated.”

“My message to you is that you take the disappointment that life hands you and you build a foundation of strength to push you forward into this next chapter of your life,” Hensley added. “It is true that this senior year is not what we expected, but I now see that all of life’s many blessings come in unexacting ways.”

Whitley County Assistant Principal Rachele Rice then introduced a list of students who had earned the accolade of highest honors.

“This distinction is reserved for students who perform at the highest level of academic achievement. These graduates have a grade point average above 4.0,” Rice explained. “They will receive a plaque to commemorate their achievement.”

Those students include Gracie Brashear, Cole Brown, Noah Bush, Isaac Cain, Autumn Canada, Jessie Croley, Bethany Devenport, Chance Dismuke, Emma Dotson. Nellie Ellis, Felicia Eversole, Emily Foust, David Holcomb, Colton Hamblin, Craig Hensley, Caleb Irwin, Jaden Johnson, Samuel McCullah, Morgan McKiddy, Hayden Mills, Sierra Napier, Andrew Richardson, Jordan Richardson, Emily Schupanitz, Clay Shelton, Belen Silva, Emilee Steely, Caeden Whitaker, Connor Wilson, Morgan Woods, and Katlyn Young.

Fellow Assistant Principal Al Ysidro then introduced those students who earned the distinction of high honors. Students with high honors are those who have achieved a grade point average of 3.9 - 4.0 throughout their high school careers.

Those students who graduated with high honors include Mariah Anderson, Allison Baker, Ashlee Chaffman, Samantha Croley, Cameron Gibbs, Chloe Gibbs, Dylan Giles, Chase Harlan, Mallory Harris, Rosie Johnson, Jacob Prewitt, Lindsey Shope, Jacob Williamson, Deavin Wilson, Rachel Wilson.

Senior students Reece Halcomb then delivered the senior academic address to his fellow graduating class.

“Graduates, congratulations on graduating high school and completing this chapter of life. I hope that we all recognize how blessed we are to receive our education from Whitley County High School,” said Holcomb.

“Thankfully we live in a country that recognizes the existence of our inalienable rights as humans. The Declaration of Independence outlines three of these rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You are alive because you can hear me speaking right now. You have your liberty because you were blessed to be born in a country that respects your liberties. This leaves our pursuit of happiness,” Halcomb continued. “Everyone’s pursuit of happiness is different, and everyone’s pursuit of happiness is important. I believe that it is our obligation to pursue something and it is our right to make ourselves proud.”

“It is my hope for myself, and for all of you that when we reach the point that the majority of our lives have passed, we can look back and respect what we’ve used our lives to accomplish,” Holcomb said in closing.

“Mr. [John] Siler, members of the Whitley County Board of Education, and parents I am pleased to announce that the members of the 2020 graduating class of Whitley County High School have met the requirements for graduation as set forth by the Whitley County Board of Education and the Kentucky Department of Education,” Dr. Lawson said.

Mr. Siler, Whitley County’s Superintendent, then presented each graduate with their diploma as they walked across the stage. The diplomas were placed on a stand that sat on a table of which Mr. Siler stood behind. Each student then had their picture taken with Mr. Siler holding their diploma.

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