The wait was finally over for seven of the 310 graduates of Grady’s Class of 2020. They, along with 43 fellow graduates from North Atlanta, Mays and Maynard Jackson High School, attended an outdoor commencement ceremony at Lakewood Stadium on Nov. 9.
Initially, 45 students indicated that they would attend the event, according to Principal Dr. Betsy Bockman. Bradley Colburn-Stanger attributes the low turnout of her fellow graduates to the large number attending out-of-state schools and to fear surrounding catching the coronavirus.
“At this point, a lot of the Class of 2020 is like, ‘Alright, I have my diploma. I don’t care,’” Colburn-Stanger said.
The district took several health precautions when organizing the event, hiring a disinfectant team, spacing seating six feet apart and requiring masks. Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring did not attend due to her recent Covid-19 diagnosis.
Associate Superintendent Dr. Dan Sims substituted for Dr. Herring as the main speaker at the event. He began the ceremony by reiterating that the Class of 2020 is worth the six months it took for a graduation ceremony to be held, preceding various anecdotes with “worth the.”
“Yes, you are worth the wait,” Dr. Sims said.
Dr. Sims also said the ceremony no longer served as a marking point of graduate’s entrance to the real world since they had already spent five months as graduates.
“Welcome to the struggle,” Dr. Sims said.
Supporters’ enthusiasm for their graduates was not dimmed by the wait. Principal Dr. Betsy Bockma nsaid the audience, although lessened in number, had a similar liveliness to those of May graduations.
“Even given the low numbers today, I know it meant something to the Grady seven as well as the 43 graduates from other schools,” Dr. Bockman said. “The family members were enthusiastic and proud, just as they are in May graduations. It was a beautiful day and the APS Office of High Schools put together a nice program.”
Class of 2020 Grady graduate Aquinas Stillwell, who now plays football for Erskine College, traveled for two hours with his family to attend the ceremony. He believes the trip was worth it and is thankful there was a formal ceremony.
“I didn’t think it was going to happen at first, but it’s nice to be here,” Stillwell said.
Stillwell’s mother, Danielle Stinson, is grateful for her son’s journey to graduation.
“I’m very proud of him because we had a really rough year,” Stinson said. “We didn’t think it was going to happen, but he pulled it off. He made it through.”
Titus Turner, who joins Stillwell as a Class of 2020 Grady graduate and a teammate at Erskine, views the ceremony as a box to check off on his journey to adulthood.
“It’s a big relief,” Turner said. “I’m ready to get my life started.”
Although she did not speak at the ceremony, Dr. Bockman advises the Class of 2020 to “look forward.”
“Be proud of how you coped with the disappointment of your senior year ending so abruptly, and go make your future,” Dr. Bockman said.