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Preston High gets creative for class of 2020

By Becky Jones

As photographer for this year’s Preston High cap and gown pictures, my interaction with each graduate allowed me to see and hear things most people miss.

This year’s unusual graduation ceremony — held over two days, May 26-27, to take extra precautions against COVID-19 — gave graduates a chance to be creative in a different way. Since everyone wore masks, many students decorated them with emblems or sayings, artwork or even the college they  plan to attend. One fellow showed up with a huge gas mask. Another grad wore tight black rubber gloves. 

 Clothing worn under the robes varied, but each person had his or her own style of celebration. Several girls painted their nails yellow, as it’s the class color, and one gal wore cowboy boots with the class flower — sunflowers — embroidered on them. Kristen Blackstock decorated her mortar board with the words: “She turned Her Can’ts into Cans and Her Dreams into Plans.”

Others wore special memorabilia. Austin Metheny wore a picture button of his grandfather’s graduation portrait on his gown, and Brianna Smith was one of several graduates who wore the blue “Bishoff Strong” wrist band in memory of Bryce and Brayden Bishoff.

Austin Metheny
Austin Metheny wears a picture button of his grandfather’s graduation portrait on his gown

Teachers and staff pooled their talents to make this graduation a success with a minimum amount of time and money.

Debbie Westbrook recorded the music of “Pomp and Circumstance,” so the students could march to it. Shauna Bloom read the names and awards each graduate received.  Samantha Funk, agriculture teacher, provided flowers and greenery and decorated the stage. Counselors and several teachers organized the report cards and diplomas.

Chad Cowell, yearbook advisor, handed out yearbooks to those graduates who  purchased them. Jason Lenhart, head of transportation for Preston County Schools and also a professional videographer, videotaped each student as they walked across the stage that was set up in the gym.

From the stage, graduates came to me, and I took a portrait of each student, using a professional background and lights. The prom committee paid wholesale cost for each graduate to get a free 5-by-7 print of their portrait.  Lenhart edited the two days of graduation into a single DVD, which he is copying. Each graduate will receive one by mail.

For seven hours a day for two days,  Pam Wilt handed out the CTE awards and  Steve Plum stood on the stage, dressed in a suit and mask, watching each student pick up a diploma and then giving each student a fist bump and congratulations. 

There were six sets of twins in this graduating class: Three sets of brothers, one set of sisters and two sets of fraternal twins. The Ferrell twins, Lydia and Shane were co-valedictorians. Shane was a recipient of the National Merit Finalist Scholarship. Lydia won the WVU Valedictorian scholarship as well as seven others. Together the twins earned 15 scholarships.

When asked what they were planning to do for the summer, several students said they planned to work. A few students even missed the graduation ceremony because of their jobs.

As students made their way out the gym door, cheers and high fives greeted them from the parking lot.

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