Clay-Battelle High School students, faculty and family took shelter as the rain poured onto the empty chairs, which delayed their 81st graduation ceremony, initially to start at 6:30 p.m. It was just shortly after 7:15 p.m., though, that the rain stopped, the sun came out and a faint double rainbow appeared above the Cee-Bees football field.
Sixty-two students walked, according to co-salutatorian Joleigh Sollars.
Additionally, Principal David Cottrell recognized that 15 earned the Promise Scholarship, a merit-based financial aid award for West Virginia residents. Thirty-two were Career Technical Education completed at MTEC or CBHS, according to Cottrell.
As Sollars made one of her many speeches, she described her class as “bright and resilient.”
“Never in my life have I seen a more supportive and tight-knit group of people that could uplift each other through the good and bad,” Sollars said.
She additionally described her high school career as “bittersweet” but is looking forward to what her future will hold.
“It’s nice to be able to know that now that I am done, I can start a new chapter in my life and see how much I like it,” Sollars said.
Cottrell described the class with three words: “Resilient, unity and kindness.”
In dealing with the global COVID-19 pandemic, Clay-Battelle students had more hardships to endure; one being the death of fellow student, Rylee Burnette, who passed away in October .
“The obstacles they have faced and yet they still want to be with each other,” Cottrell said. “That says a lot about these young people.”
Each speech from the graduation illustrated the importance of family.
“We experienced family every time we stepped into the building,” Sollars said.
Valedictorian Molly Simpson said, “This class isn’t just a group of students, it’s a family.”
For the small town of Blacksville, the close community within remains.
As Cottrell closed his speech, he circled back to his three main words.
“The resiliency to get them through life’s hard knocks … the ability to make lemonade out of lemons; as well as the knowledge to see the glass as half full rather than half empty,” Cottrell said.
In addition to working together toward a common goal and being united, Cottrell stressed the importance of seeing the kindness of the class of 2020 in a “difficult world”
“This group has gone out of its way to express kindness to each other as well as those around them,” he said.
Cottrell said the graduating class has the “right stuff” to start the next chapter in their lives.
“Without a shadow of a doubt, the class of 2020 is going to be successful,” Cottrell said. “They have what it takes to be successful.”